The public defender for Michigan school shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley has said she does not plan to cooperate with the high-profile legal team representing his parents, in the latest sign of a growing estrangement between the family members.
Attorney Paulette Michel Loftin told The Detroit News that she does not expect to work together with Jennifer and James Crumbley’s attorneys because their clients are not co-defendants in the same case and are not facing similar charges.
“The charges are vastly different. The cases will never be heard together,” she said.
Legal experts said this also suggests the 15-year-old alleged mass shooter’s defence may seek to pin the blame on his parents for the massacre in Oxford High School in Michigan back on 30 November.
Four students – Tate Myre, 16, Hana St. Juliana, 14, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17 – were killed in the massacre while one teacher and six other students were wounded.
The Crumbleys bought their son the firearm used in the shooting as a Christmas present just four days before the attack, according to prosecutors.
The parents are also accused of ignoring multiple warning signs of Ethan’s behaviour and refused to remove their son from his high school just hours before the shooting, despite the recommendations of officials.
Ethan is scheduled to appear in court at Rochester Hills at 1.15pm local time on Monday for a probable cause conference.
He has been charged as an adult with a flurry of 24 charges, including four counts of first-degree murder and one count of terrorism.
His parents were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter each in connection to the mass shooting.
They will appear in court at 1.15pm on Tuesday for their next court hearing.
With Ethan being charged as an adult, all decisions about his case will be made by him and his attorney – without the influence of his parents.
Ms Loftin has also signalled she does not plan to reach a joint defence agreement with the Crumbleys’ team.
This is something of a departure from convention in a high-profile criminal case where attorneys will often share information and privileged communications with attorneys of other defendants in the case.
Attorney William Swor, who represents a defendant in the Flint water crisis, told The Detroit News that sharing information between lawyers can be helpful in a large case because resources can be shared and “you’re not reinventing the wheel every time”.
The Crumbleys’ attorneys can ask for information from Ms Loftin but she “can’t do anything to prejudice their client”, he said.
However, in this case, Birmingham lawyer Wade Fink told the outlet the defence arguments are “incongruous” so sharing information may not work in the favour of the defendants.
This estrangement comes as it emerged last week that the Crumbleys had hired a prominent legal team to represent them before appearing to go on the run.
The Crumbleys had retained Shannon Smith – who represented convicted sex offender Larry Nassar – and Mariell Lehman even before prosecutors charged them in connection to the shooting.
Meanwhile, the Crumbleys appeared to decide against forking out for their son’s legal battle, with Ms Loftin being appointed by the court to represent him because the teenager could not afford his own counsel.
All three Crumbleys are being held separately at Oakland County Jail where the 15-year-old and his parents have not been able to contact each other.
Ethan faces up to life in prison if convicted on the charges.
His parents face up to 60 years in prison if convicted – 15 years for each manslaughter charge.
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