The opening statements of the James Crumbley trial focus on whether the son’s shooting was preventable

By | March 7, 2024

PONTIAC, Mich. – Prosecutors in the criminal trial of James Crumbley, the father of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley, opened their case Thursday by showing jurors an image of the gun’s unused cable lock, still in its original packaging – showing they released evidence designed to suggest he failed to prevent the impending disaster.

“That nightmare was preventable and foreseeable,” Oakland County Prosecutor Marc Keast said of the November 2021 Oxford High School shooting that left four dead and several injured.

“There is no allegation that James Crumbley gave his son that firearm knowing he would kill four students,” Keast added. “The question becomes: How can a father be held responsible for the intentional actions of his teenage son?”

“It requires gross negligence, it requires a cause of death and the actions of the other person are reasonably foreseeable – those are the three elements that need to be proven,” he told the jury in a trial that could last about two weeks .

But in her opening statement, James Crumbley’s attorney defended his actions in the months leading up to and on the day of the shooting, telling jurors he was simply unaware of his son’s planned attack.

“You won’t hear that James probably even suspected his son was a danger,” Mariell Lehman said.

“What the prosecution would have you believe, and the part that isn’t true, is that James Crumbley knew what his son was going to do and knew he had a duty to protect other people from his son,” she added. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, that is not true. He didn’t know.”

Crumbley, 47, faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, each representing one of the victims of the massacre at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit days after Thanksgiving.

His wife, Jennifer Crumbley, 45, was found guilty of the same charges last month and will be sentenced in April.

Opening statements from the prosecution and defense on Thursday led jurors through presentations similar to those in Jennifer Crumbley’s landmark trial — the first time in the U.S. that a parent was found partially responsible for their child’s school shooting.

Prosecutors said James Crumbley bought Ethan a 9mm Sig Sauer as a gift at a time in his son’s life when he was struggling emotionally because his best friend had moved away.

“The decision James Crumbley made to purchase that gun as a gift for his son was made even though he knew his son was in the midst of total social isolation and a downward spiral of distress that was already underway. for a while,” Keast told jurors.

He went on to say that Crumbley had other options to prevent the violence, including by properly locking the gun and telling school staff that he was aware his child had access to a firearm when he and his woman on the morning of the shooting were alerted to a drawing. of a gun and a person being shot during Ethan’s math homework.

But Lehman told the jury that Crumbley, a Door Dash driver, did nothing different on the day of the shooting because he was unaware of it.

“If you are not aware of an impending, immediate danger, why would you do anything differently than you normally would?” Lehman said. “You wouldn’t do that because you wouldn’t have any reason to.”

James Crumbley, dressed in a suit and glasses, stared mostly straight ahead and used an over-the-ear device to help his hearing.

The trial of his wife was marked by emotional testimony, with videos and photos of the shooting shown to jurors, and Jennifer Crumbley audibly sobbing in her seat at times. She took the stand in her own defense and testified that she left control of storing and locking up the family’s firearms to her husband.

The opening statements in James Crumbley’s trial came after two days of jury selection that included 15 people, 12 of whom will be chosen at random to deliberate on the verdict.

As with Jennifer Crumbley’s trial, the jury in James Crumbley’s trial will not be preoccupied, but will be asked not to watch or read news about the trial. Additionally, most of the jurors in his trial are also parents and are either gun owners, grew up with guns or have family or friends who have them – highlighting how exposure to firearms is a familiar facet of this region of Michigan where hunting is a popular activity .

Themes of parental responsibility and safe gun storage will also linger throughout the trial of James Crumbley.

But there are some differences. At least two new witnesses will testify: the original owner of the 9mm semi-automatic pistol, who sold the gun and a cable lock to a gun store where James Crumbley bought it, and a student who was injured in the shooting.

Some evidence will also be new or withheld compared to the first trial. For example, text messages between Jennifer Crumbley and her son that were shared while she and her husband were horseback riding will not be heard this time; the lyrics strengthened the prosecution’s case and showed that Jennifer Crumbley was a neglectful mother while her son was in distress and complained that there were demons in the family’s home. Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews ruled Thursday that the texts were inadmissible because there is no evidence that James Crumbley was aware of them.

Matthews had emphasized during jury selection that James Crumbley’s case is separate from his wife’s, with different evidence, and asked whether anyone’s judgment had been so clouded by media reporting that they could not be impartial.

“Are you able to put aside the sympathy you feel and decide this case based on the evidence and facts?” Matthews asked.

As with the trial of Jennifer Crumbley, son Ethan will not testify in his father’s case.

Ethan, now 17, pleaded guilty as an adult to murder, terrorism and other crimes in 2022 and was sentenced in December to life in prison without parole.

Loved ones of some of the four shooting victims – Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17 – attended Thursday’s opening statements.

It is unclear whether James Crumbley will take the stand. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison on each charge.

One of the first witnesses on Thursday was an Oxford High School teacher who was shot.

Selina Guevara reported from Pontiac and Erik Ortiz from New York.

This article was originally published on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *