Jennifer Crumbley’s lawyer told the court about her own lack of showering in a bizarre defence of the school shooter’s mother, during closing arguments on Friday.
Ms Crumbley is facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter after her son fatally shot four of his classmates in November 2021. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
In closing arguments, defence attorney Shannon Smith detailed a series of snapshots into her own personal life as a “messy” working mother-of-four in an effort to relate to her client and suggest that she easily could have ended up in “Mrs Crumbley’s shoes”.
“I say ‘sorry’ a lot,” Ms Smith said, and referred to a TikTok video that apparently shows the attorney apologising throughout the trial.
The attorney told the court that she messes up a lot because “I’m human — and so is Mrs Crumbley”.
The defendant is “not a perfect person or a perfect parent,” she said, and neither is she.
Ms Smith said that as a working mother, she sometimes doesn’t have time to take a “true shower” but has to “just grab a handful of wipes and scrub off the best I can”.
“I realised I am Jennifer Crumbley,” Ms Smith said, outlining similarities between the two women.
“Calling your child an oopsie baby was designed to try to make her look bad with no context,” Ms Smith argued, adding that she calls her son an “oopsie baby” all the time.
Ms Smith said that she has called her child a “psycho” or a “nutcase,” just as Ms Crumbley called her son “weird” in texts to her friend.
The lawyer said that she doesn’t own a gun, but has a “butcher block” of big knives.
“My kids could easily grab a knife without me knowing it…and walk out the door of my house and go play with the other kids…and my son could kill somebody,” she said. “And I never would have expected it to happen.”
She added other hypotheticals of why she believes this case is too extreme. “Am I going to be held responsible if my son sends a picture of his penis over to some girl?” Ms Smith asked.
“Can parents really be responsible for everything their children do? Especially when it’s not foreseeable?” the lawyer added.
“It was unforeseeable. No one expected this. No one could have expected this — including Mrs Crumbley,” the attorney said, as she repeatedly tried to add distance between her client and her son Ethan Crumbley.
The prosecution “cherry-picked” evidence out of “mountains of evidence,” Ms Smith said, while pointing to colourful stacks of papers and folders on the defence table. The prosecution, by contrast, maintained that it provided the whole story in its closing arguments earlier.
The prosecutor said that there were many “tragically small” things the defendant could have done that could have prevented the massacre. One of those things, the prosecutor argued, was that the mother could have simply told her son at the meeting with school staff hours before the shooting: “I care about you, I love you.”
Ms Smith described this suggestion as “ridiculous”, saying: “Giving him a hug that day in the office is going to stop a mass shooting?”
Nothing could have stopped him that day and that Ethan had pleaded guilty to his crimes, she argued.
Ms Smith also described Ethan as a “skilled manipulator” although he never showed his parents signs of mental illness. “No parent would purchase a weapon if they believed their child had mental illnesses,” she said, adding that the Crumbleys had two other firearms in the house and nothing had ever happened prior to the mass shooting.
The lawyer also argued that there was a “lack of evidence” to show that Ms Crumbley found her son weird or acting depressed. “There are not texts [between the Crumbley parents] that their son was exhibiting anything close to a mental health concern,” she said.
Ms Smith also characterised a voicemail left by a school counsellor for Ms Crumbley as “very nonchalant.” She added that the voicemail didn’t require a call back.
The lawyer also sought to place the blame for the shooting on the school.
She brought up the school meeting between the parents and the school staff on the morning of the shooting, after Ethan was found with disturbing drawings.
The school reportedly gave the Crumbleys a choice of whether to take Ethan home or keep him in class.
They chose to keep him in school — which he shot up hours later. “Reasonable doubt can be found in the fact that trained professionals told Ms Crumbley that her son was not a risk,” Ms Smith said, emphasising that the school did not force the parents to take the high school sophomore home.
The defence also brought up the prosecution’s claim that Ms Crumbley did not tell the school that she and her husband had just bought a gun for their son. Experts testified that students are known to go to the gun ranges often and know that it’s a “gun community”.
Earlier this week, Ms Crumbley’s lover Brian Meloche testified that the pair had a six-month affair starting in the spring of 2021. They haven’t talked since Ms Crumbley was arrested in December 2021, he said.
Ms Smith claimed that Mr Meloche was “inconsistent” and called him a “terrible witness”.
“He’s just an idiot and has no clue,” she said, referring to him claiming that Ms Crumbley told him the 9mm handgun was in her car on the day of the shooting.
During her own testimony, Ms Crumbley called that claim inaccurate and said that Mr Meloche “must’ve been confused” about the timing.
The defence also pushed back on the prosecution’s attempt to cut into the defence’s claim that Ms Crumbley is a “hypervigilant” and “helicopter mom”.
Ms Smith also defended her client’s text on the day of the shooting to her son: “Ethan don’t do it.” Ms Crumbley was worried that her son would kill himself, she said.
The defence attorney also addressed the Crumbleys’ behaviour after the shooting, insisting that Ms Crumbley wasn’t trying to “flee” authorities.
Staying at her friend’s artist studio is evidence of that, because there were security cameras all around it and the couple were smoking in plain sight outside, she argued.
“The Crumbleys weren’t running. They were just trying to turn themselves in,” she said, before reading texts that indicate that the pair knew that they were surrounded by police at the studio.
Ms Smith also emphasised that this was not James Crumbley’s trial — but he’s the one who knew about the guns. Ms Crumbley meanwhile didn’t know the difference between string and cable locks.
It also is not “unreasonable” for Ms Crumbley to have suggested that her husband go to meet with school officials instead of her. He had a more flexible schedule since he was a DoorDash driver and she had a “professional career,” the attorney argued. “She shouldn’t be dinged for that.”
Ms Smith said the “prosecution made a charging decision way too fast”. Despite ragging on Mr Meloche earlier, the defence attorney agreed with his description that this case is a “witch hunt”.
“The prosecution had no context because they had tunnel vision,” Ms Smith said. “They were hellbent” on convincing jurors that she was negligent.
“A not guilty verdict is the only fair and just result in this case,” the defence attorney argued.
The trial ended on Friday. The jury will return on Monday at 9am to receive instructions and begin deliberations.