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Why Ethan Crumbley’s Parents Have Hired High-Profile Legal Team While Their Son Gets Court Appointed Lawyer

Photo: Oakland County Sheriff Office
Jennifer Crumbley, Ethan Crumbley, James Crumbley

Amid the news that Ethan Crumbley, the accused Michigan high school shooter, has been appointed an attorney, scrutiny has turned to his parents legal counsel.

The 15-year-old, who is being charged as an adult after opening fire at his high school leaving four students dead and several wounded, is being represented by Paulette Michel Loftin, a Rochester-based attorney.

Loftin was appointed to Crumbley at the request that he could not afford to hire his own attorney.

Meanwhile, his parents, who have also been charged in connection to the Oxford High School shooting, have chosen a different route. 

Ethan Crumbley's parents hired their own lawyer but didn't get one for their son.

Both parents face four counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the shooting, and each count is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Jennifer and James Crumbley also tried to evade the charges against them, fleeing from police once the charges against them were announced.

An intense manhunt ensued before they were found inside an industrial building and promptly arrested.

Who is Ethan Crumbley's parents' lawyer?

Crumbley’s parents, James and Jennifer, are being represented by West Bloomfield attorneys Shannon Smith and Mariell Lehman, a high-profile legal team.

Smith previously represented convicted child molestor and former team doctor of the United States women's national gymnastics team, Larray Nassar. 

RELATED: How Arresting Ethan Crumbley’s Parents Sends A Powerful Message To Gun Owners

While the parents' decision to not shell out money for their son to have a better defense team seems like a calculated move, legal experts have a different opinion.

“I’m certain they couldn’t afford it,” defense attorney Bill Swor told the Detroit Free Press.

Retainer fees can range from $30,000 to six figures when it comes to hiring just one defense attorney, especially in a murder trial.

“In some ways, the parents have got a harder case than the kid,” Swor added.

“They’re adults and he’s a child, and the father bought the gun. The mother made the (social media) postings, and public officials... made public statements that are very prejudicial.”

The gun that Ethan Crumbley accused of using during the shooting at the Oxford school had been purchased by James Crumbley at a local gun shop with Ethan.

Jennifer Crumbley had referred to the gun as an “new Christmas present” in a social media post.

RELATED: Ethan Crumbley’s Neighbor Says She Warned Child Protective Services About His Parents Before Shooting

Both parents had been made aware of the drawing that had been done on their son’s desk of a handgun, bullet, and shooting victims.

School officials urged his parents to seek professional counseling for Ethan the morning of the fatal shooting.

The parents had failed to ask their son if he had the gun on him that day, and failed to alert the school that Ethan was in possession of a firearm.

Jennifer and James Crumbley will likely need to distance themselves from their son's actions to prove innocence. 

Their case may rely on placing sole responsibility for the shooting on their son, rather than taking accountability. 

Ethan Crumbley is being housed in the Oakland County Jail alongside his parents, though each of them are in isolation and won’t be able to interact with each other.

Crumbley has been charged a total of 24 counts, including four counts of first-degree murder and terrorism causing death.

The high school sophomore is accused of murdering Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, 17.

Loftin, in a statement to the Detroit Free Press says she has spoken to Crumbley, and is expected to gain more information on the evidence in the criminal investigation from prosecutors and police.

“There are thousands of pages of discovery that I will need to review so that we can make an informed decision about whether or not we wish to have the preliminary exam," Loftin said.

RELATED: Mom Of Michigan School Shooting Suspect Wrote A Letter To Trump To Criticize Immigrants & Praise Gun Rights

Nia Tipton is a writer living in Brooklyn. She covers pop culture, social justice issues, and trending topics. Follow her on Instagram.

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