Could James and Jennifer Crumbley’s use of lawyers from same firm lead to appeal later?

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald filed a motion regarding James and Jennifer Crumbley’s legal representation.

The Crumbleys, who are facing charges after their son Ethan Crumbley was accused of opening fire at Oxford High School last November, are represented by lawyers from the same firm.

MORE: Prosecutor asks court not to name accused Oxford shooter

“In general, in criminal cases, it is certainly the general routine for each client to have a separate lawyer,” said Larry Durbin, a University of Detroit law professor emeritus. 

But the Crumbley parents do not. They hired attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman after the deadly school shooting.

“Each of those defendants – husband and wife – have separate constitutional rights that must be met,” he said. “If you have one lawyer representing both parties, what if there’s a conflict where you do something that helps one of them, but that could hurt the other?”

James and Jennifer Crumbley appeared in court on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021 on involuntary manslaughter charges.

That could be grounds for appeal if the Crumbleys are convicted.

The prosector has asked the judge to appoint separate attorneys for the Crumbleys to explain to them the danger of having joint representation. If they still agree to it, the prosecutor wants the Crumbleys to sign a waiver at every hearing.

“The purpose of the motion is to make sure these defendants understand that, once convicted, they will not be entitled to a ‘do-over’ when they later decide that they should have had separate counsel. Our goal is justice for the victims,” said Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney David Williams.

Crumbleys due in court Tuesday – what to expect

Durbin noted that the issue needs to be addressed ahead of a trial, so it doesn’t cause more problems during trial.

“You want to make sure that you don’t get bogged down in trial with this kind of issue if it hasn’t been disposed of, which could then cause a mistrial and raise a whole host of other issues that would arise as a result of it,” he said.

The prosecutor also filed a motion to keep Ethan Crumbley’s name out of the proceedings involving his parents. Both motions will be addressed Wednesday.

James and Jennifer Crumbley will also be in court Tuesday for a pre-trial hearing not related to the motions.

What are James and Jennifer Crumbley charged with? 

Over the course of two days in February, multiple pieces of evidence were presented suggesting that James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to address concerns regarding Ethan Crumbley’s mental health. The couple is also accused of buying a gun for the 15-year-old on Friday, Nov. 26 – just four days before the shooting at Oxford High School.

According to authorities, Jennifer Crumbley made an Instagram post that said she was at a gun range shooting a weapon that was her son’s Christmas present days before the shooting. 

Read: Prosecutors say Ethan Crumbley’s parents ignored signs of violence for months 

During the preliminary exam, text messages between Jennifer Crumbley and Ethan Crumbley were presented that showed for months before the shooting, the teen would text his mother about hallucinations he was having while home alone. On multiple occasions, she didn’t acknowledge these messages.

Read the text messages here.

Text messages between Ethan Crumbley and a close friend also revealed a look into the teen’s relationship with his parents.

In an exchange on April 5, 2021, prosecutors described “quite a bit” of discussion about his mental state in which Ethan Crumbley told his friend he was “f—– up,” experiencing hallucinations, and had asked his parents for help.

“Now my mom thinks I take drugs,” one text read, according to the prosecutor. “She thinks that’s the reason why I’m so mad and sad all the time, and she doesn’t worry about my mental health. They make me feel like I’m the problem.”

Ethan Crumbley trial: What’s next for alleged Oxford High School shooter?

Another text from Ethan Crumbley to his friend indicated that he had asked his father, James, “to take me to the doctor but he just gave me some pills and told me to suck it up,” the prosecutor read during the hearing.

At one point, Ethan told his friend in a text: “I need help. I was thinking of calling 911 so I could go to the hospital but then my parents would be really pissed,” according to the exchange read in court.

Read: Ethan Crumbley told friend parents ‘make me feel like I’m the problem’

During the exam, Oxford High School counselor Shawn Hopkins also testified about James and Jennifer Crumbley. 

Hopkins said he spoke with Ethan Crumbley after concerning drawings and words were found on an assignment the day of the school shooting.

Hopkins said he “was concerned about suicidal ideation” and contacted Ethan Crumbley’s parents to meet with them.

Jennifer and James Crumbley were shown the note and advised that Hopkins was concerned for his well-being. Hopkins testified that he didn’t recall Jennifer speaking to her son during the estimated 15-minute meeting and that James looked over the math assignment with Ethan and told him, “you have people you can talk to.”

More: How Ethan could be used by prosecution and defense

The counselor testified that he told the couple Ethan needed mental health support “as soon as possible, today if possible.” But he noted that Jennifer said she had to return to work that day and it wouldn’t be possible within that timeframe.

“I was taken aback by that,” the counselor testified. He added that he then told the parents, “I want him seen within 48 hours. I’ll be following up.”

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