Defense putting up a fight in Dumbuya murder trial

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — We now have a good idea of what the prosecution will like for the trial of Quinn James accused of the murder of 16-year-old Mujey Dumbuya. But what will the defense look like?

It took seven hours of testimony and evidence in a hearing Friday before the defense for Quinn James was ready to waive and allow the case to move to felony court for trial.

But from the beginning, this defense has made it clear that they will not go down without a fight.

Even before he was charged with the murder of Mujey Dumbuya, a student at East Kentwood High School where James worked as a custodian, he was facing trial for allegedly raping her at least three times.

Her testimony could have sent him to jail for life and this is the motive for her murder, according to Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Kellee Koncki.

James is represented by attorney Jonathan Schildgen, who has been putting up a vigorous defense.

On Friday, Schildgen sparred with Grand Rapids District Court Judge Jennifer Faber about getting a psychological exam — also known as forensic competency exam — for his client.

Usually a request for the exam is granted without any trouble, but in this case, the prosecutor’s office is opposing it saying in a brief that there is, “not a shred of evidence” that it is necessary. 

“I’m trying to think of – at least since 2011 – when the last time anybody had a request for competency denied,” Schildgen said.

But the judge ruled that the defense request for an exam came too late and she said that the issue could be taken up when the case moves to the next level: Kent County Circuit Court.

“I believe a delay for purposes of a forensic evaluation would be significantly prejudicial to the prosecutor,” Faber said. “I believe the filing of this motion on the eve of this hearing which has been scheduled out for almost seven weeks now is untimely.”

But Schildgen persisted saying there was grounds to at least see if his client should be tested.

“That’s why we have mental health professionals,” Schildgen said. “I’m not aware of anybody here that has a medical degree that can decide if this is a bona fide doubt.”

Schildgen has also moved to have the entire Kent County Prosecutor’s Office removed from the case because an employee of the office had a dating and/or intimate relationship with James and had contact with the victim in an official capacity.

In a written response, the prosecution acknowledges the relationship, but says it is with a non-attorney staffer who would have no impact on the case. The office employs several staff who are not attorneys including members of the victim witness unit that often interacts with victims of crime.

Nevertheless, Schildgen said he believes her will prevail in removing the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office from the case.

Schildgen has filed to get the state to pay for an independent DNA expert to testify in one of the cases against James, indicating that he will be challenge that evidence.

Also during Friday’s hearing, the defense asked questions intimating that there is evidence Mujey was seen alive on the day her body was found.

All this will play out in the coming weeks in circuit court.

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