Seventeen-year-old Ethan Crumbley is in court Thursday for a hearing to determine whether he should spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing four students and wounding seven others in a mass shooting at Michigan’s Oxford High School in 2021.
Crumbley’s premeditation ahead of the shooting and propensity for violence are among the reasons he should receive a life sentence, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in her opening statement.
Crumbley’s attorney, Paulette Loftin, said the defense will show Crumbley is not “irreparably corrupt” and should be sentenced to a term of years in prison.
The first prosecution witness, Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Timothy Willis, who oversaw the shooting investigation, testified Thursday that Crumbley bypassed device security and accessed a violent website on a jail computer tablet in January.
When authorities discovered the search history, which Crumbley had attempted to delete from the device, the teen said he could not “resist” visiting the site he’d frequented before the shooting, according to the lieutenant.
Prosecutor Marc Keast went over a handwritten journal with Willis that was recovered from Crumbley’s backpack in a school bathroom after the shooting, highlighting excerpts about his plans written weeks and months before the carnage.
Crumbley successfully executed many of the plans he outlined in the journal, Keast told the court.
One entry said: “I want to shoot up the school so f**king badly.”
“The first victim has to be a pretty girl with a future so she can suffer just like me,” Crumbley wrote in another.
The first shooting victim was a female student, Phoebe Arthur, the lieutenant confirmed.
“I will continue shooting people until police breach the building,” Crumbley wrote. “I will then surrender to them and plead guilty to life in prison.”
Crumbley pleaded guilty in October to one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder and 19 other charges stemming from the mass shooting he carried out at his high school when he was 15 years old.
In the week before he killed his schoolmates, Crumbley Googled a series of questions about the death penalty and prison sentences for 15-year-olds in Michigan.
And the night before the shooting, Crumbley Googled “What is worst prison sentence you can get in Michigan,” according to the lieutenant.
Willis also described an extensive series of journal entries and text messages with an unidentified friend discussing in graphic terms how Crumbley tortured and killed baby birds.
Willis testified about a video in which Crumbley could be seen torturing a hatchling to death. The video was not played in court. Willis described the joy the teen shooter appeared to feel while torturing the bird.
Crumbley later wrote in text messages to a friend how he enjoyed the torture and that he continued to feel the urge to kill.
Willis grew emotional at several points during testimony about the day of the shooting. He choked up and paused at times as he listed the names of the dead and wounded.
As an adult, Crumbley would be sentenced to life in prison without parole, the harshest punishment under Michigan law. Because he’s a minor, the court needs to hold a hearing to consider whether he should have a chance for eventual release.
The so-called Miller hearing is named after a US Supreme Court case, Miller v. Alabama, which struck down mandatory life without parole sentences for minors. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday and Friday and could extend into next week.
Prosecutors will argue that Crumbley deserves a life sentence without parole. Crumbley’s lawyers will present mitigating factors, including his age, home life and the possibility that he can be rehabilitated, to argue that life without parole is disproportionate.
Last week, Crumbley’s lawyers asked the judge to take the possibility of life without parole off the table before the Miller hearing. Judge Kwame Rowe denied the request, along with their requests to limit witnesses and allow Crumbley to wear street clothes during the hearing.
Source : CNN