Jennifer Crumbley does not want jurors in her upcoming trial to know that her son tortured baby birds in the months before he shot up Oxford High School, arguing the details are "extremely disgusting" and inflammatory, and could be used against her unfairly, according to a new court filing.
Ethan Crumbley, who is to be sentenced Friday for his rampage two years ago, had videotaped himself killing birds, court records show. His mother, facing involuntary manslaughter charges along with her husband, maintains she never knew her son tortured birds or that he hid a bird's head under his bed for months, then brought it to school in the same month he killed four students and injured seven others, including a teacher.
"The 'bird evidence' is so extremely disgusting, sickening, and appalling that its admission would certainly inflame the passions of a jury. The jury will undoubtedly judge Mrs. Crumbley for the heinous acts of her son, which she knew nothing about," defense attorney Shannon Smith wrote in a Monday filing. She argued that the bird evidence is irrelevant to the mother's case, "especially considering there is no evidence to show she was aware of the shooter’s disgusting acts with birds."
January trials scheduled for Crumbley parents
"It is clear that the shooter mutilated baby birds on more than one occasion, texted a friend about details of mutilating birds, video recorded himself doing so, and photographed vile and disgusting images of his actions," Smith wrote, stressing that the shooter "intentionally" hid this from his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley.
The Crumbleys, who are the first parents in America charged in a mass school shooting, face trial in January on involuntary manslaughter charges. They are accused of ignoring their son's mental health troubles and buying him a gun instead of getting him help — the same gun he used in the November 2021 massacre. Prosecutors also allege that the Crumbleys, more than anyone else, could have prevented the shooting had they told school officials about that gun when given the opportunity, but hid that information.
The Crumbleys' parenting skills and personal lives have long been scrutinized by the prosecution, which has disclosed in court filings that the parents engaged in all sorts of irresponsible behavior, including affairs, heavy drinking and pot smoking. The defense has argued all that is irrelevant to the case, and would only serve to inflame the jury — like the so-called "bird evidence."
"If the 'bird evidence' is admitted, it will end up being used as evidence that suggests bad character of the parents, although that fact is irrelevant to the issues the court has to decide in this case," Smith wrote.
What about the infidelity?
In a separate filing, Jennifer Crumbley also is asking the judge for clarity on a salacious issue: her affairs.
Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl Matthews has already ruled that an affair the mother had cannot be used as evidence in her trial. But the prosecution has talked of a second affair it discovered by the mom when Ethan Crumbley was 6, and the defense fears it may bring it up at trial.
So it's asking for clarity.
Matthews has ruled on what can and cannot be used as evidence against the Crumbleys.
She will not allow evidence about infidelity by the parents; their messy house; alcohol and marijuana in the house; and their son's Instagram pictures, internet searches and a Nazi coin he had.
She will allow evidence about the time and money the Crumbleys spent on horseback riding and their son playing violent video games.
Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 at the time of the killings, has pleaded guilty to all the crimes with which he was charged and faces the possibility of life without parole when he's sentenced Friday.
Tresa Baldas: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Jennifer Crumbley wants 'bird evidence' withheld from Oxford trial