Attorneys for accused Oxford High shooter argue for some jail records to remain private

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News


Some jail records for accused Oxford High shooter Ethan Crumbley should remain private and not be part of the public court file or available to the news media, attorneys for the boy argued this week.

Crumbley, 15, is being held in isolation in the Oakland Count Jail without bond pending a placement hearing scheduled for Feb. 22 in which his attorneys are expected to argue he should be placed in the county's juvenile facility, Children's Village, rather than the jail.

The filing this week by defense attorneys Paulette Loftin and Amy Hopp was at the invitation of Judge Kwame Rowe, who will oversee Crumbley’s placement hearing and eventual trial.

Loftin and Hopp could not be reached for comment Tuesday but noted in their legal memorandum to Rowe that the Feb. 22 hearing will allow each side to address the factors that should be considered when deciding appropriate placement.

Oxford High School shooting defendant Ethan Crumbley appears at his probable cause hearing via remote video conference on Dec. 13, 2021.  Some jail records for Crumbley should remain private and not be part of the public court file or available to the news media, attorneys for the boy argued this week.

“At that hearing Jail Records created by deputies, doctors, counselors and others could be presented as Exhibits and discussed through the witnesses that each side calls to testify,” Crumbley’s attorneys wrote. “At the previous hearing on January 19th, 2022, the parties discussed any potential conflicts with that hearing being open to the public either in person or by live feed.”

Rowe suggested defense attorneys and prosecutors discuss the issue among themselves and prepare briefs.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald had previously told Rowe she is opposed to any limitation of media or public access to the placement hearing.

Loftin and Hopp wrote this week that they agreed with McDonald's contention that “there is no current caselaw or court rule that prevents this type of hearing from being made public just as any other hearing would.” But they added they “would be opposed to the filing of the Jail Records as part of the public court file or having them displayed for public viewing at the actual hearing as they contain private and sensitive information.”

They cited Michigan court rules that “materials that are intended to be used as evidence at or during a trial shall not be filed with the clerk of the court but shall be submitted to the judge for introduction into evidence as exhibits.”

At the end of the hearing the court rule states exhibits “shall be returned to the parties and not retained as part of the court file.”

McDonald in her brief submitted to Rowe supported her position with references to case law on how the “public and media have both a constitutional and statutory right to attend criminal proceedings.”

“The parties have been in communication regarding the issue and believe the media and public access of the hearing should not be limited,” McDonald wrote in part in a Jan. 20 filing to Rowe reviewed by The News.

“With hundreds of victims looking to the criminal justice system for accountability, openness and transparency is critical,” McDonald wrote.

“Given the importance of this right to openness, there are few circumstances under which public access to court proceedings can be limited,” she wrote.

Crumbley, who was a sophomore at the school, is charged with killing four students and wounding six others and a teacher in a Nov. 30 incident. He has pleaded not guilty.

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