The judge presiding over the trial of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley’s mother said she would not allow the gunman to testify if he invokes his Fifth Amendment right, as his attorneys have previously indicated he would.
The Fifth Amendment protects a person from being “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” The amendment is often invoked to avoid answering specific questions during testimony.
“It’s not that I’m saying you can’t call him as a witness, but two of his attorneys have said in no uncertain terms that he’s taking the Fifth,” Judge Cheryl Matthews told defense attorney Shannon Smith in court Friday.
“I am going to prohibit you from putting any witness on the stand who takes the Fifth in front of the jury, that is strictly prohibited,” the judge said.
Jennifer Crumbley’s attorneys have asked the judge to compel her teenage son and his two jail psychiatrists to testify at her trial. Her son was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December for killing four of his classmates and wounding six others and a teacher at Michigan’s Oxford High School in 2021. He was 15 during the attack.
Now, his parents are facing their own trials for manslaughter, with prosecutors alleging the teen’s parents are also responsible for the deaths. Prosecutors have accused Jennifer and James Crumbley of ignoring their son’s pleas for mental health care and buying him a gun despite his deteriorating mental state.
Ethan Crumbley’s attorneys have indicated they will not waive privilege or confidentiality for his medical records, the testimony of his doctors, or his own testimony. A Sunday letter from his attorneys indicated he’s been advised to invoke his Fifth Amendment right if called to testify as the appeal of his life sentence without the possibility of parole remains pending.
Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney claimed in a filing earlier this week that the teenager’s testimony is crucial to refute text messages and journal entries he wrote about his parents’ knowledge of and involvement with his mental health.
Judge Matthews has not yet ruled on Ethan Crumbley’s doctors testifying.
Shooter said his mom ‘laughed’ about mental health crisis
Ethan Crumbley told a friend his mother “laughed” when he asked to see a doctor about his mental health, according to messages shown in court Friday during his mother’s manslaughter trial.
The messages were shown during the testimony of Det. Edward Wagrowski, a cell phone forensics expert who analyzed phone and social media data from the Crumbleys.
Ethan Crumbley texted his friend in early April 2021 and said he was hearing people talking to him and seeing someone in the distance, according to the texts.
“I actually asked my dad to take [me] to the Doctor yesterday but he just gave me some pills and told me to ‘Suck it up,’” Ethan Crumbley wrote in the messages. “Like it’s at the point that I am asking to got [sic] the doctor. My mom laughed when I told her.”
Crumbley texted his friend he was experiencing insomnia and paranoia, and he was thinking about calling 911 so he could go to the hospital, according to the evidence presented in court.
“I’m going to ask my parents to go to the doctor’s tomorrow or Tuesday again. But this time I am going to tell them about the voicees [sic],” he texted his friend. “Like I am mentally and physically dying.”
Later in the month, Jennifer Crumbley messaged the mother of her son’s friend, saying Ethan Crumbley had been acting “kind of depressed.”
“I’m not used to Ethan being moody he’s usually pretty happy and we’ll talk about anything,” she said, adding she thought her son had been stressed about his grades.
Prosecutors also displayed concerning messages between the Crumbleys from the month prior to the shooting.
On March 8, 2021, Jennifer Crumbley messaged her husband expressing concern about their son, saying he was “upset” and she didn’t want him to do “anything stupid.”
The next day, Ethan Crumbley repeatedly texted his mother saying he thought someone was in the house – flushing the toilet and slamming a door – even though nobody was home.
“Maybe it’s just my paranoia,” he texted her.
Phone records show his mother did not call or text him until the next day, Wagrowski testified.
On March 17, Jennifer Crumbley messaged her husband saying she was going to “get drunk and ride my horse,” according to Wagrowski’s testimony. Later that evening, Ethan Crumbley texted her multiple times about a demon throwing objects in the house, according to the testimony.
Jennifer Crumbley called her son about an hour after he texted her, and the phone call lasted 19 seconds, according to cell phone records shown in court. Photographs from her phone show she and her husband, James, were at a barn during the time she did not respond to her son, Wagrowski testified.
A few days later, Ethan Crumbley texted his mother saying items were flying off the shelf. His mother did not call him until hours later, and evidence indicates his parents were at the barn again that day, Wagrowski said in his testimony.
Wagrowski testified the “vast majority” of the parents’ Facebook messages he read were about their horses. He estimated that upwards of 75% of the conversations, which began in early 2021, were about the horses, and he could only recall reading a couple conversations about their son. Wagrowski testified he did not see any conversations discussing getting mental health treatment for their son.
And on the morning of the shooting, Oxford High School officials contacted Jennifer Crumbley regarding disturbing drawings her son drew on a math worksheet. According to messages shown in court, Jennifer Crumbley sent the image to her husband and said “Call NOW. Emergency.”
“My God. WTF,” James Crumbley responded, then added he was still waiting on their horse’s vet.
Prosecutors played surveillance video in court that showed the gunman’s parents in the school counselor’s office for about 12 minutes that day. After they left the school, Wagrowski testified both parents returned to work.
After the school sent out an active shooter alert later that day, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son telling him she loved him, asking if he was OK – and then writing “Ethan don’t do it,” according to messages shown in court.
CNN’s Lauren del Valle and Jean Casarez contributed to this report
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