Judge warns prosecutor about bad words from Crumbley parents

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Regarding the number of victims injured in the fatal shooting at Oxford High School, the judge agrees with the prosecution.

“There are certainly many more than four,” the judge wrote in a court order on Tuesday, referring to the number of students killed in the massacre.

But then the judge showed some deference to the parents of the shooting suspect, James and Jennifer Crumbley, who allege the prosecutor is still publicly insulting them – despite an existing gag order – by emailing case updates to over 1,800 registered victims. Landing on Facebook recently, these updates, they say, contained “very damaging” comments about them.

“The DA’s office should have reasonably known that an email sent to nearly 2,000 victims could have been released to the media,” Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews wrote in her order dealing with mass email.

Judge concerned about ‘misleading statements’

Matthews went on to worry about the impact the content of the mass email could have on jury selection for the Crumpleys, who are the first parents in America charged in a mass school shooting. Their teenage son, Ethan, is accused of shooting at his school with a gun his parents bought him.

The Crumbleys, meanwhile, argue that Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald is tainting the jury panel, alleging she constantly spread false and inflammatory information about them and did so in an email. of September 15 which was sent to approximately 1,800 addresses.

Oakland County District Attorney Karen McDonald in Rochester Hills District Court on February 24.

Matthews took issue with that email, noting that “part” of it “implies that the defendants have a duty to present evidence and/or that the (Crumbleys) bear the burden of proof.”

“The ability to sit an impartial jury and conduct a fair trial in this jurisdiction will be an arduous task and is of paramount and overriding concern,” Matthews wrote. “Misleading statements will likely diminish this ability.”

The problem for the defense is how many victims the prosecutor’s office discloses and what the victims are told.

The defense had argued that the prosecution violated a July court order barring either party from making statements about the case to the media, including any statement that each party ‘knows or reasonably ought to know will be released. by the media”. Mass emails fall into this category, the defense argued.

The judge agreed, but chose not to sanction the charge.

The prosecution argues that it has a legal duty to inform victims of the progress of the case under the Victims of Crime Act and that the law in no way limits its communications with victims. Under the law, “victim means any of the following: a person who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime”.

This could apply to students who were at the school at the time of the shooting and their parents – many of whom said they were traumatized by the events that unfolded on November 30, 2021.

But the Crumbleys argue their case only involves four victims and their families, not the 1,800 linked to their son’s case, and want the court to order the prosecution to send its updates only to the families of the four. victims, “not to the massive public” of their son’s case.

The judge “hesitates to restrict”

Matthews denied that request, noting that she was “reluctant to restrict the prosecution’s release of material factual information to victims.” She also wrote that “at this time, the court does not sanction the conduct of the prosecution”, but reiterated its duty to “protect the rights of the accused, the persons, the victims and to maintain the integrity of these proceedings. “.

According to court records, part of the prosecution’s email to victims that raised red flags is an assertion that the Crumbleys provided no evidence that they were good parents, as they have argues in a court filing detailing their years of parenthood.

“The prosecution team wants you to know that we have seen no real evidence to support the (parents’) claims and that the defense has provided no evidence in court,” the prosecutor’s office wrote to the US. victims in a statement posted on Facebook. .

“It involves the defense lying or making up information,” the Crumbley lawyers argued, stressing that they were tired of the prosecution acting as if they were the only “truth-teller” in this case.

The judge, meanwhile, warned the prosecutor’s office to be more careful.

“There is no authority to support the proposition that the Crime Victims Rights Act requires mass communication whenever an indeterminate number of victims may operate under a misunderstanding,” wrote Matthews. “Although the prosecution alleges that ‘responding to hundreds of calls and emails in a timely manner would be impossible’, the court is hopeful that the prosecutor’s office can employ a more surgical response in the future, should the need arise. actually feel.”

The Crumbleys are charged with manslaughter for allegedly buying their son the gun that police say was used in the shooting. Prosecutors allege the parents ignored a mentally ill son who was spiraling out of control and, instead of asking him for help, bought him a gun.

The Crumbleys denied responsibility, saying they had properly secured the gun in a locked cabinet in their home and had no way of knowing their son would carry out a mass shooting.

The Crumbleys are due back in court on October 28 for a hearing in which their attorneys will challenge the prosecution’s mass shooting experts.

Prosecution wants to use Pathway to Violence theory at trial, saying toxic home life and parental neglect turned their son into a killer, and that he didn’t just ‘crack’ when he shot .

The prosecution plans to call experts to support this theory, although the defense plans to challenge their admissibility, arguing that the Pathway to Violence theory is a “relatively new” area of ​​study without widely accepted scientific consensus.

Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, is incarcerated for first degree murder. He is in the same county jail as his parents, although the family has been banned from communicating.,

Contact Tresa Baldas: [email protected]

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