Lawyers representing the parents of a Michigan teenager charged in a high school shooting that left four classmates dead said Monday they plan to call him to testify at the couple’s trial.
Defense attorney Shannon Smith told Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews that Ethan Crumbley’s testimony would relate to “extraneous matters” and not the Nov. 30 shooting at the Oxford High School.
“We need him as a witness in this trial,” said Smith, who represents Jennifer Crumbley. “There are just some questions that we just wouldn’t be able to ask. We understand that.
Smith did not specify what types of questions Ethan Crumbley would be asked. She later declined to comment when The Associated Press asked her for more details.
A message seeking comment was also left for a lawyer for the 16-year-old.
The disclosure came during a hearing in Pontiac, where Matthews ruled against the defense’s motion for a change of venue for the manslaughter trial of James and Jennifer Crumbley, which is tentatively scheduled to begin in late October.
Matthews sided with the couple’s arguments that certain evidence, such as the state of their home, would not be admitted at trial. Matthews said she would allow the Oakland County District Attorney’s Office to present statements written in their son’s diary, his text messages to a friend and his internet searches.
Seven other people, including a teacher, were also injured in the shooting about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Detroit.
Ethan Crumbley faces murder and other charges. His trial is expected to begin in January. His parents are accused of failing to keep the gun used in the shooting safe at home and failing to take reasonable care of their son when he showed signs of mental distress. They pleaded not guilty.
Matthews said Monday she wondered if their son would be called to testify.
Prosecutor Karen McDonald asked the court if they “wanted to call their son to somehow diminish — emphasize — his role instead of his parents.”
But Smith said calling him to testify “is not about defendants who want to throw their son under the bus or make him look bad.” Smith added, “It’s about our customers pushing the case.”
David Moran, clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, said what Smith is proposing is unusual.
“I’ve never heard of it,” he said. “If I am representing a defendant in a murder case, I will certainly not accept a co-defendant testifying in a related case. I would strongly advise the client against doing this, (but) it is the client’s right.
Moran said defense attorneys might want Ethan Crumbley to testify about his relationship with his parents, and they might try to limit the testimony, but the other side can ask broader questions that are relevant to the case. In progress.
“I don’t think the prosecution would be prevented from asking him what happened (on the day of the shooting),” he said.