Jennifer and James Crumbley
Jennifer and James Crumbley (Photos: Mugshots from sheriff's department)

A Michigan judge this week expressed concern about the legal representation for the parents of a teenage gunman.

Oakland County Circuit Judge Cheryl A. Matthews ordered independent lawyers to meet with James and Jennifer Crumbley to determine whether they might be better served by having separate attorneys, reported MLive.

“Joint representation of codefendants charged in criminal matters by attorneys from the same law firm is uncommon,” Matthews said. “There is great concern that there may be a conflict of interest as incompatibility of positions may arise at any moment.”

The parents have been charged with four counts of involuntarily manslaughter after prosecutors alleged they were criminally negligent for failing to stop a shooting rampage by their 15-year-old son Ethan Crumbley in November at Oxford High School that left four teenagers dead and seven other people wounded.

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The judge will ask the couple at their next pretrial hearing whether they are waiving a potential conflict, and they must provide written waivers if so, that would violate their right to a fair trial.

“Obviously, this is very stressful for everyone involved,” the judge said. “I’m trying to avoid your rights from being implicated in a negative way, but I’m also trying to avoid having to recreate or go backwards with regards to this case. For example, if the matter is in trial and there is a conflict in the middle of the trial, that could result in a mistrial.”

The couple is represented by attorneys Mariell R. Lehman and Shannon M. Smith, who operate the Bloomfield Township-based Smith Lehman law firm.

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