(WXYZ) — Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old accused gunman in the deadliest K-12 campus shooting in the U.S. since 2018, will seek an insanity defense according to a motion filed by his attorneys on Thursday.
Crumbley, who has been charged as an adult, is facing counts of first-degree premeditated murder, attempted murder, and domestic terrorism.
Legal experts on both sides of this case note an insanity defense is a practical legal strategy.
"It goes back to an old law school textbook called the McNaughton rule," defense attorney Arnold Reed said. "At the time the person committed the particular act, he must have been in a state of mind that he couldn't appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct."
Arnold Reed has handled hundreds of criminal cases. He says this move by the suspect’s team is no surprise.
Prosecutors have video, numerous witnesses, and now public drawings which they say the suspect altered when he was caught with them just before the shooting. They show a gun and phrases like "the thoughts won't stop” and "blood everywhere.”
The November 30 shooting rampage claimed the lives of Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, Hana St. Juliana, and Justin Shiling. Seven others were hurt.
"Ultimately, it's up to a judge or jury at trial to determine whether or not the defendant fits the definition of legal insanity," former assistant prosecutor Joseph Lavigne said.
In a case of this magnitude, if guilty but found to be mentally ill, a defendant would still go to prison, Reed says, but would also receive treatment.
The suspect, facing 24 charges altogether, will be evaluated at the Center for Forensic Psychiatry. The defense can ask for an independent evaluation if not satisfied.
"What we're seeing here, in my opinion, is a valiant effort by the defense to say yeah he did it, but he did it under the circumstances. He didn't appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct," Reed said.
There is always the potential for a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict which could result in the 15-year-old being sent to a mental facility rather than prison. As of now, that mental evaluation has not been scheduled.