By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
The Crumbley family returned to court last week, Jennifer and James appearing before Judge Cheryl Matthews on Tuesday, April 19 and Ethan before Judge Kwame Rowe on Thursday, April 21.
Matthews rejected a motion from Crumbley attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman to lower their bonds to $100,000. Matthews cited the defendants’ criminal records of drunk driving and writing bad checks, the seriousness of the charges against them, the lack of community ties that would keep the defendants in the area and their flight after the shooting, which ended in a Detroit art studio while being the subject of a search by federal authorities.
“The behaviors supporting flight are insurmountable, as the primary purpose of the bond is to endure the defendants’ appearance,” Matthews said. “The defendants’ own actions leading up to their current arrest make the current bond appropriate.”
The defendants chose to maintain their existing lawyers despite concerns over conflicts of interest, signing waivers stating they each discussed the concerns with independent attorneys but remained confident in the Smith and Lehman legal team.
Conflict of interest concerns regarding the Crumbleys’ lawyers have been reoccurring, the prosecution regularly starting hearings with the issue and Matthews mandating the defendants to address the issue at the March 22 hearing. Potential issues included either lawyer being unable to cross-examine witnesses in ways that could help one parent but harm the other, or the lawyers being unable to testify as witnesses to defend the parents.
Matthews expects the trial will take a while to start, particularly regarding jury selection. The judge expects the trial to begin sometime in October.
The defense plans to file about 10 additional motions before proceedings begin including motions dealing with the shooter’s medical and psychological records, as well as a change of venue.
Their son’s trial is set to begin on Sept. 6. Rowe set the date in order to “move the case forward” but cautioned the date could change. The 16-year-old will remain in the Oakland County Jail for the time being.
By Dean Vaglia