Opening statements in Jennifer Crombley’s trial focus on how she raised her son in the lead-up to the school shooting
PONTIAC, MI – Conflicting photos of Jennifer Crumbley emerged Thursday during her opening statement Trial for manslaughterProsecutors also said Michigan’s mother intentionally failed to behave in front of her His teenage son’s murderous school rampage In 2021, while her defense said she simply didn’t know what he was capable of.
Both sides focused their statements on the events leading up to the mass shooting at Oxford High School days after Thanksgiving, when school administrators alerted Jennifer Crombley and her husband, James, to a drawing their son Ethan made of a gun and a bleeding person that the teacher found on his desk.
But Oakland County Prosecutor Mark Keast told the jury that while Jennifer Crumbley shared her “private concerns” with her husband in Facebook messages, she neglected to say her son had access to a gun when they met with school staff just hours before the shooting. Such a meeting with parents can last an hour, but Keast said the Crombleys ended their meeting after 11 minutes and the parents refused to take their son home.
“Even though she did not pull the trigger on November 30, she is responsible for those deaths,” said Keast, who began his opening remarks by reciting the names of the four slain students.
Keast added that the Crombley family “did not do a number of tragically small, easy things that would have prevented this from happening.”
Later, Crombley’s attorney, Shannon Smith, offered a glimpse into the defense strategy when she told the jury that while the mother took her son to the shooting range, it was her way of spending time with him as he struggled with the family dog’s death and death. Girlfriend moved away – was not responsible for locking and storing the firearm.
James Crombley had that authority, and Mrs. Crombley had nothing to do with that part, Smith said.
“The evidence will show you that Jennifer Crumbley did the best she could as a mother of a child growing up into her teens, and she had no way of knowing what was going to happen,” Smith added.
She said Jennifer Crombley will serve as the defense during her trial.
Crumbley, wearing a knit sweater, appeared emotional throughout the day, pushing her glasses aside to wipe away tears as Smith and others spoke. Later, when school surveillance video was played as part of witness testimony, her audible crying sparked protest from prosecutors who questioned the judge about his influence on the jury.
“We weren’t crying or making a scene,” Smith told Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Matthews, adding that they were doing the best they could.
“I’m not a robot, I’m trying to keep myself from crying,” Matthews said, urging everyone to be aware of their feelings.
The trial of Jennifer Crumbley, 45, puts a rare criminal focus on the parents of the school shooter, with prosecutors asserting that Ethan Crumbley’s mother and father bear some responsibility for what their 15-year-old son committed at Oxford High School.
Like his wife, James Crumbley, 47, faces manslaughter charges in the killings of the four students: Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Meyer, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14 years old; and Justin Schilling, 17 years old. James Crombley’s trial is scheduled to begin in March.
Ethan Crombley, now 17, was charged as an adult in the attack and pleaded guilty to murder, terrorism and other crimes before being released. He was sentenced to life imprisonment Without parole in December.
His parents are not accused of knowing about their son’s plan, which he discussed in a video he recorded the day before the shooting, but prosecutors said The parents were aware of the warning signs and that he grew up in a troubled home Which affected his psychological state.
In her instructions to the jury, Matthews said they must evaluate whether Jennifer Crombley knew there was a risk to others and that the deaths could have been avoided using “ordinary care.”
Keast told jurors they will see more than 400 pieces of evidence during the trial, which could last about three weeks. He said he expected to call law enforcement, Jennifer Crombley’s co-workers and shooting victims as witnesses, and that a “pattern” would emerge of how the defendant “downplayed and outright lied” about her level of knowledge of her son.
Smith, in turn, described the prosecution’s case as “fragments of evidence” that required more context and that Ethan Crombley’s actions were “completely unexpected”.
Thursday’s opening statements come two days after jury selection began Tuesday, after more than 300 potential jurors were called to Oakland County Circuit Court for the highly anticipated trial.
Court staff said 17 people had been called as jurors, but only 12 would consider Crombley’s fate; No one in court, including the jurors themselves, will know who is among that final group until deliberations begin.
The jury is not sequestered during the trial, but jurors have been asked not to watch relevant news reports, check social media or talk about the case.
Potential jurors were asked about their beliefs surrounding gun ownership and whether they could separate their feelings about what happened at Oxford High School from their duty to look at this case objectively.
The vast majority of sitters said they either have guns in their family, grew up familiar with guns or have other family members who carry guns, highlighting a country steeped in gun culture and where Gun rights and gun bills It has been hotly debated.
Defense attorneys also asked potential jurors if they had a bias that a minor should never be around a gun.
In addition, potential jurors were queried about how they would react to someone in the community after learning that they were one of the jurors in the trial and disagreed with the verdict reached by the jury. Many said they would stand by their decision.
Gun safety and parental duty are expected to be major topics in the trial, which observers say will certainly be emotionally charged, as jurors will hear from witnesses personally affected by the shooting and watch video from inside the high school.
After opening statements, the trial’s initial witnesses included Oxford High School employees who described the day of the shooting.
On the eve of his mother’s trial, Ethan Crombley’s new defense attorneys said in a lawsuit that they would. Encouraging him not to testify If he is called as a witness. In response, Jennifer Crombley’s defense attorneys filed a motion asking the court to compel the shooter and his doctors to testify, or to prevent certain evidence such as text messages and journal entries from being presented at trial.
The son’s defense attorneys also indicated that he was appealing his sentence, but later clarified that “it is too early to speculate whether he will choose to appeal.”
Selena Guevara reported from Pontiac and Eric Ortiz from New York.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com