2 independent attorneys to be assigned to Crumbley parents in Oxford shooting case

Crumbley parents in court
Posted at 6:49 AM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 17:20:35-04

(WXYZ) — A pre-trial hearing for James and Jennifer Crumbley, the parents of the suspected Oxford High School shooter, was held on Tuesday morning.

James and Jennifer are each charged with four counts of manslaughter in the shooting, which killed four students and injured several more.

They’re accused of making a gun accessible to Ethan Crumbley and failing to intervene when the 15-year-old showed possible signs of mental distress.

During the hearing Tuesday, the judge announced that the court is appointing two independent attorneys to Jennifer and James to advise them on potential conflicts of interest as they continue to have joint representation.

Judge Cheryl Mathews spoke directly to James and Jennifer, telling them she was appointing the independent attorneys. They will meet privately and thoroughly discuss possible conflicts of interest and how it could harm them.

"There is great concern that there may be a conflict of interest. I'm concerned that at some point – today, tomorrow, next week, a month from now, four months from now – that something could happen to cause a conflict that could damage your position Mr. Crumbley, or your position Mrs. Crumbley. And I have an obligation to protect your rights," Matthews said. "I'm concerned as we sit here now, there could be a myriad of things that are incompatible.

"If there’s a mistrial because of a conflict that arises at trial, we go back to square one, and I want to avoid that," she added.

After they were publicly charged, both were found hiding out inside an art studio in a building on Detroit's east side. One of the attorneys, Sharen Smith, indicated she had been in contact with her clients. That defense attorney could be called as a witness in the ongoing case, another major conflict of interest.

If James and Jennifer decide to go with the same two attorneys, they will be required to sign a waiver of the conflict with the court.

Also, the judge ruled that their son's name will not be used in court, granting a motion filed earlier this month by Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald.

No hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, and their next court date is set for April 19.