By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
The Crumbley family returned to court last week for a pair of short hearings in the twin Nov. 30 school shooting cases.
Parents James and Jennifer Crumbley had a 10 a.m. pretrial hearing at the Oakland County Circuit Court on Tuesday, March 22. Judge Cheryl Matthews appointed independent attorneys for each parent alongside their existing legal team of Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman to address conflicts of interest. While the idea of a conflict of interest based on the parents having lawyers from the same firm was brought up at all prior hearings, Matthews is now taking the step to ensure the parents receive a fair trial and avoid a mistrial.
“I am concerned that at some point — today, tomorrow, next week, a month from now, four months from now — something could happen to cause a conflict that could damage your position, Mr. Crumbley, or your position, Mrs. Crumbley,” Matthews said. “I have an obligation to protect your rights and I am concerned, as we sit here right now, there could be a myriad of things that are incompatible.”
The independent attorneys do not replace the existing Smith Lehman, PC team. Each parent will meet with their appointed attorney to discuss potential conflicts. If either parent would no longer like to work with the Smith Lehman, PC firm after their meetings, the prosecution and defense will work on a waiver to outline how the case will go forward.
They will be back in court on April 5.
A second placement hearing for the 15 year-old arrested in connection with the shooting, Ethan Crumbley, was held around 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 24. Presided by Judge Kwamé Rowe and held over Zoom, the hearing dealt with whether the teen should stay in the Oakland County Jail (OCJ) or be moved to a juvenile facility. State and federal statute requires monthly placement hearings for juveniles held in adult jails, and the February hearing led to the teen remaining in the OCJ.
Deborah McKelvy, court appointed guardian for the teen, spoke about ways to provide him with education on track to a GED or similar level of education. Two ideas were presented to the court and the teen, though he cannot enter any program until he turns 16. Neither Rowe nor the prosecution objected to the ideas presented.
Rowe verbally upheld the February hearing’s decision and will issue a written ruling, keeping the teen in the OCJ. Another hearing will be in late April.
By Dean Vaglia