PONTIAC, Mich. (FOX 2) - Attorneys for the parents of accused Oxford High School shooter Ethan Crumbley claim that Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald is tainting the jury pool by holding press conferences and sending out press releases regarding the ways James and Jennifer Crumbley parented their son.
Defense for James and Jennifer Crumbley filed motions on Wednesday that criticize McDonald's handling of the case. The Crumbley parents are facing manslaughter charges stemming from the Nov. 30 school shooting allegedly carried out by their son.
Since the shooting, McDonald has held several press conferences and has spoken with the media about the case. The defense wants her to stop doing this and stop releasing information that could be used evidence in the trial.
"Jurors will not be able to un-know' things they have heard or seen from the prosecutor in the media," the court paperwork said.
According to James and Jennifer's attorneys, she has revealed inflammatory information that will taint the jury pool. They also claim that she is trying to make the parents look bad.
Calling the prosecutor a politician with a ‘vested interest in having the public view her and her handling of these cases in a favorable way,’ the attorneys argue that McDonald has presented herself as the hero who is protecting children.
The filing argues the point by stating she announced charges to the public before she told Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.
Included in the motions were requests to withhold some information from jurors that have been brought up by prosecutors. While prosecutors have discussed James and Jennifer's drinking and marijuana habits, alleged affairs, and messy home, the lawyers said they don't believe such information is relevant.
The defense filed a motion to restrict pretrial publicity, citing what it claims is McDonald's desire to retain office.
"It is clear that the prosecutor wishes to win at trial, not only to do the job as prosecutor, but to be viewed in a favorable light so as to win reelection, or win election to higher office," the motion reads.
That's the reason the defense says McDonald has released so many pieces of evidence and opinions - to put her in the best light possible.
However, this does not protect the defendants right to a fair trial by an unbiased jury, the defense argued.
"We submit that trials should take place in the courtroom, not in the media," the motion reads.
Further, the defense argues that McDonald has violated court rules of conduct that says a lawyer participating in an investigation or litigation "shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter."
The rule also reads that attorneys mush not provide a statement that is likely to prejudice a jury when someone is charged with a crime unless "there is included therein a statement explaining that the charge is merely an accusation and that the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty,"
The Crumbley attorneys argue that a prosecutor should expressly make this statement after a press conference and include it in press releases. Two press releases that wen tout did not include that statement.
"This is a tactic designed to win at all odds in violation of the Crumbleys’ constitutional rights to a fair trial," the motion reads.
It also names assistant prosecutor Marc Keast who was quoted in a Yahoo.com article as stating that "The defendants will be convicted. Once they’re convicted, they will go to prison."
This is also in violation of the rule, the defense says. The motion also said that McDonald made a similar comment after a hearing in April when she said she was "100% confident that [the prosecution] will convict the Crumbleys."
The motion ends by citing McDonald's own efforts to stop the use of Ethan's name in court because of the publicity attached to the case.
"Prosecutor McDonald has advocated that press coverage should be tightly controlled to avoid prejudice to the appropriate legal processes. She clearly only believes that this should apply only to the defense, not to the prosecution. It was not the defense that released the name of EC to the public. It was the prosecutor. The prosecutor filed amotion to prevent the very thing they did," the motion reads.
A tentative trial for James and Jennifer is set for October 24, 2022.
When that date was set last month, defense attorney Shannon Smith said they plan to file roughly ten motions - one or two each week. The defense team did not say specifically which motions they plan to file but said they have motions to quash, eliminate, and motions regarding Ethan's psychological records and more.
"(We have) motions about much more minor things that I hope we can work out with the prosecution," Smith said.
What are James and Jennifer Crumbley charged with?
Over the course of two days in February, multiple pieces of evidence were presented suggesting that James and Jennifer Crumbley failed to address concerns regarding Ethan Crumbley's mental health. The couple is also accused of buying a gun for the 15-year-old on Friday, Nov. 26 - just four days before the shooting at Oxford High School.
According to authorities, Jennifer Crumbley made an Instagram post that said she was at a gun range shooting a weapon that was her son's Christmas present days before the shooting.
During the preliminary exam, text messages between Jennifer Crumbley and Ethan Crumbley were presented that showed for months before the shooting, the teen would text his mother about hallucinations he was having while home alone. On multiple occasions, she didn't acknowledge these messages.
Text messages between Ethan Crumbley and a close friend also revealed a look into the teen's relationship with his parents.
In an exchange on April 5, 2021, prosecutors described "quite a bit" of discussion about his mental state in which Ethan Crumbley told his friend he was "f----- up," experiencing hallucinations, and had asked his parents for help.