The hearing will determine if Ethan Crumbley, who was a minor at the time of the shooting, can be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
He’s pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism and the murders of Justin Shilling, 17, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, Hana St. Juliana, 14, and Tate Myre, 16.
Psychologist Dr. Colin King sat in the witness box for the better part of the day. He’s a key witness for the Oxford High school shooter in his quest to avoid spending the rest of his life in prison.
“Did you review videos of him shortly after the shooting?” prosecution asked.
King responded, “I did not see videos of him.”
King argued why life without parole for the 17-year-old, who killed four classmates and wounded seven others at Oxford High School, is not the correct sentence.
“The part that sort of stood out for me was when he told his parents that he was hearing voices and he needed to see a therapist. I don’t know what 15-year-old raises his hand and says my brain hurts, I need to see a therapist — and it never happened,” King said.
At the hearing, body camera video from the Oakland County Jail showed the Oxford gunman after the shooting yelling and crying, suggesting a mental breakdown. King attributed it to anxiety, depression and psychosis.
“Why didn’t you stop it, God? Why? Why didn’t you stop it? Why didn’t you stop it, God? Why didn’t you stop it? You let it happen. Why?” the shooter said.
“Someone who’s saying ‘God, why didn’t you stop it?’ And that’s exactly how psychosis works. You engage in an action, and somehow you don’t understand the outcome of the consequences. He’s having a panic attack and a break with reality,” King said.
To secure a sentence less than life in prison, the defense needs to show that the gunman can be rehabilitated. King said he believed there is a possibility of rehabilitation.
“Ethan’s brain is still maturing, and his brain will probably not reach full maturity for another 10 years,” King said.
King’s 70-page report details events like the shooter falling on his head in 2020 at an Oxford diner, where he once worked. It showed the teenager inexplicably falling and hitting his head on the floor. The defense suggested that he sustained a head injury that may have caused the behavior that followed.
“When (the shooter) fell in the diner and hit his head and the owner said I need to call 911 and didn’t, I consider that physical abuse,” King said.
But prosecutors pushed back, attacking the doctor not just for what he put in his report about the gunman but what he left out. The report left out mention of crucial elements of the November 2021 mass shooting.
And at one point, King admitted to including a conclusion about the defendant that was actually written by someone else about a different defendant in an unrelated case.
“Doctor, are you aware of when and how the defendant shot Justin Schilling?” asked the prosecutor
“I am not aware sir,” answered King.
Prosecutor: “Do you know how he asked Justin to get down on the ground and he executed him, are you aware of that?”
“I take your word for it, sir,” answered King.
“Does that matter to you?” asked prosecution.
“It does matter,” said King.
Outside court, parents say they don’t believe it’s possible for him to be rehabilitated for the murders — three of which happened at point-blank range.
“I believe the defendant is mentally ill but also feel that doesn’t supersede responsibility for what he did,” one parent said.
Another parent said, “On some level, you have to be mentally ill for what he did. But it doesn’t mean you can’t still be accountable.”
Prosecutors maintain the shooter had one final chance to call off his plan in the school office but lied and returned to class before taking lives.
The hearing resumes Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. Until then, attorneys on both sides are holding off on making comments.
This story was originally published by Scripps News Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company.