Michigan school shooter’s parents do not have to help their son with his appeal, court rules

A Michigan judge on Wednesday denied Ethan Crumbley’s request for his parents’ pre-sentence investigation reports to help him appeal his life without parole sentence.

Ethan was sentenced in December after pleading guilty to gunning down four classmates and wounding six others and a teacher at Michigan’s Oxford High School in 2021. He was 15 at the time.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, were each sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison earlier this year following manslaughter convictions.

As part of the appeal of his sentence, Ethan asked a state court for the confidential pre-sentence reports used in the trial of his parents, arguing his family and home environment are relevant to his appeal.

On Wednesday, Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews sided with the parents and denied the request for the pre-sentence reports, according to Ashley Williams, a member of Matthews’ legal staff.

The sentencing court was required to consider his family background, including his home environment, because he was under the age of 18 at the time of the offenses, Ethan’s attorneys wrote in a motion earlier this month.

In response, prosecutors did not take a position on the matter and noted the parents’ pre-sentence reports were not created until months after Ethan was sentenced.

Alona Sharon, an attorney for Ethan’s father, wrote in response to the motion that Ethan is “able bodied” and “capable of advising his counsel about his childhood, his parents and his home environment. Counsel has failed to explain to this Honorable Court why they cannot learn this evidence from Ethan directly.”

An attorney for Ethan’s mother wrote in a court filing that the documents are “privileged and confidential” and she had “not waived her statutory privilege allowing the disclosure of her pre-sentence report.”

Jennifer Crumbley’s attorney wrote that in a bid to show that her son’s trial counsel was ineffective, Ethan “is simply attempting to engage in a fishing expedition for information that (he) hopes will prove helpful.”

Her attorney wrote Ethan should be able to provide his attorney with any information about his “family and home environment” that may be relevant under the law.

The Crumbleys are the first parents to be held criminally responsible for a mass school shooting committed by their children as the nation continues to grapple with the scourge of gunfire on campuses.

Attorneys for Ethan and his parents did not immediately respond to CNN requests for comment.

Ethan was sentenced last year after pleading guilty to terrorism causing death, four counts of murder and 19 other related charges. He did not testify in his parents’ trials.

Ethan admitted in court that on November 30, 2021, he took a gun from an unlocked container in his home, hid it in his backpack and took it out in a bathroom before opening fire on his schoolmates. He killed Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Justin Shilling, 17; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Tate Myre, 16.

At the parents’ trials, prosecutors used testimony from shooting survivors, police investigators and school employees to show James and Jennifer Crumbley were “grossly negligent” in allowing their teenage son to have access to the gun and ignoring signs of his spiraling mental health.

In pre-sentence investigation reports included in the prosecution’s sentencing memos, the parents continued to defend their actions.

“I am wrongly accused, and now wrongly convicted of Involuntary Manslaughter. My actions were that of any other parent,” James Crumbley wrote. He also said he “had no knowledge of what (my son) was going to do, or presented with ANY warning signs,” and he defended his gun safety efforts. “I followed the law and took gun safety to the point as needed.”

In her report, Jennifer Crumbley sought to clarify her testimony, saying she would not have done anything differently. “With the information I have now, of course my answer would be hugely different. There are so many things that I would change if I could go back in time,” she said. “I never imagined he would hurt other people in the way that he did.”

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