Jury Deliberates in James Crumbley’s Michigan School Shooting Trial


James Crumbley “did nothing” to prevent his son from carrying out Michigan’s deadliest school shooting, prosecutors said in closing arguments on Wednesday, while his defense attorney argued that he was unaware of his son’s troubled mental state or plans to attack his schoolmates.

A jury must now decide whether Mr. Crumbley should be held partially responsible for his son’s rampage, which killed four people and injured seven others. The boy’s mother, Jennifer Crumbley, was convicted last month by a different jury in the same courtroom.

Prosecutors took the rare step of bringing criminal charges against the Crumbleys for the shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30, 2021. They accused Mr. Crumbley of missing cries for help from his son, Ethan, who was 15 at the time and complaining of mental health issues, and of failing to secure the gun used in the shooting.

“James Crumbley was presented with the easiest, most glaring opportunities to prevent the deaths of these four students,” Karen McDonald, the prosecutor in Oakland County, said in closing arguments. “And he did nothing.”

Mariell Lehman, Mr. Crumbley’s defense lawyer, told the jury that prosecutors had left plenty of room for reasonable doubt. “You heard no testimony, and you saw no evidence, that James had any knowledge that his son was a danger to anyone,” she said.

Mr. Crumbley has been in jail since December 2021, when he and his wife were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Justin Shilling, 17; and Hana St. Juliana, 14. The couple requested separate trials. Unlike his wife, Mr. Crumbley chose not to testify in his own defense.

The witness lists in the two trials were similar, but there were a few key differences in the evidence presented.

At Ms. Crumbley’s trial, lawyers pored over her communications with her son, including months of text messages, as prosecutors tried to paint her as a detached and negligent mother. In the case of Mr. Crumbley, the testimony focused more on the Sig Sauer pistol that prosecutors say he bought his son as an early Christmas present four days before the shooting.

Law enforcement officials who searched the Crumbleys’ home shortly after the attack testified this week that they had found the storage case for the gun lying open on the parents’ bed, along with an empty box of ammunition. They said there was no indication that the case had been locked.

Ms. Lehman said that before the shooting, Mr. Crumbley did not know whether his son was aware of the gun’s hiding place. During her rebuttal, Ms. McDonald pulled on a pair of gloves, picked up the murder weapon and a cable lock, and demonstrated for the jury that it could be locked in a matter of seconds.

Prosecutors also walked the jury through several entries in the shooter’s journal, including one that appeared to have been written the day before the shooting. “I have access to the gun and the ammo,” the entry said. “I am fully committed to this now.”

It was not clear whether either of the shooter’s parents had seen the journal entries before the attack. But they were called to school on the morning of Nov. 30, after a teacher saw their son making violent drawings. Those drawings included an object that looked like the gun Mr. Crumbley had purchased, and phrases including “help me” and “blood everywhere.”

Neither the Crumbleys nor school officials searched the teenager’s backpack, which held the weapon. According to testimony from law enforcement, Mr. Crumbley, who had been working as a driver for DoorDash, made deliveries after the meeting and did not return home to check on the pistol until after he had learned about the shooting.

Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree murder, and was sentenced last year to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He did not testify in his either of his parents’ trials.

Prosecutors called 15 witnesses to the stand in Mr. Crumbley’s trial, including people who saw the shooting and law enforcement officials who investigated it. The defense called only one witness: Karen Crumbley, the defendant’s sister. She said that until the shooting, she had never seen a reason to be overly concerned about her nephew.

Neither did Mr. Crumbley, according to his lawyer.

“He didn’t know,” Ms. Lehman told the jury. “He didn’t know what was going on with his son. He didn’t know what his son was planning. He didn’t know that his son knew where the guns were. And he didn’t know that his son had somehow obtained access to those guns, or a gun. He didn’t know.”

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