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Michigan School Shooter's Mom Testifies In Her Own Defense. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired February 01, 2024 - 13:30   ET




SHANNON SMITH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I don't know when it was. I was just asking in case she --


JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, DEFENDANT: It's gone on through the years.

SMITH: OK. Go ahead.

CRUMBLEY: So then we found out that he needed glasses. Around 8 or 9, we bought him glasses. That didn't work.

He got x-rays done for dental in middle school. Found out he had a severe under bite that is causing tension in the back of his neck. So we got him braces in eighth grade. Once he had his braces, that seemed to fix the headaches.

SMITH: OK. With the braces, was that -- was that the end of the crisis?


SMITH: Why not?

CRUMBLEY: He's horrible at brushing his teeth. He won't use the Waterpik we got him. He won't brush properly. He would constantly get cavities in his braces. We ended up taking the wires out because one time he had 13 cavities under the braces. And we --


SMITH: I'm sorry. Prior to him getting braces, did he have other cavities?

CRUMBLEY: Yes, he had a few.

SMITH: OK. But did the braces -- was that more after the braces?

CRUMBLEY: Yes, because he wasn't brushing properly around his braces so he was getting them under. We had to get the wires removed and take him to get those filled so we could get the wires put back on.

SMITH: So it was an often-done procedure?


SMITH: I want to go through some exhibits for you, with you, that this defense has proposed as exhibits --

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We're listening to Jennifer Crumbley on the stand in her own defense as she faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter following the 2021 shooting at Oxford High School where her son, Ethan Crumbley, was the shooter, now convicted.

We are going to take a quick break. We'll be right back as her testimony continues.



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: We're continuing to follow the breaking news into CNN. This case in Michigan has the potential to be historic.

Prosecutors here are testing the limits of who is responsible for a mass shooting after charging the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the shooter at the Oxford High School shooting in 2021.

Both of them are facing separate cases, each of them for involuntary manslaughter. Right now, the shooter's mom is on the stand.

Here is the testimony of Jennifer Crumbley, live.

CHERYL MATTHEWS, OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT JUDGE: (INAUDIBLE). I don't know if it was anything amongst those pictures -- (INAUDIBLE). The timeframe in and of itself I think is appropriate.

KEAST: There are some -- just so we're aware, there are some close to 2017, 2019 --


SMITH: Those are in the following ones where I did picture by picture. Those I will go through after the --



SMITH: It's 2020 and 2021.

MATTHEWS: OK, So just -- (INAUDIBLE). The timeframe is close enough. I will find a way to overrule the objection.


MATTHEWS: There is a lot of pictures so I don't know if -- (INAUDIBLE).

KEAST: All right. I'm sorry?

MATTHEWS: There's a lot that we saw. I don't --


KEAST: (INAUDIBLE) We can go exhibit by exhibit.


The pictures in 2020, the pictures of the defendants are small. The Exhibit contains a lot of small pictures. I looked at those, I'm assuming the prosecution has.


SMITH: I don't know if the pictures are objectionable if the car is in the pictures.

KEAST: It's the relevant dates, that's the objection.


So, Mrs. Crumbly, the jury is going to get these if they want to set and look at them all. I don't want to go through all of them. Their ends up being pages and pages. What are all of these?

CRUMBLEY: The ones that are on the screen right now, it's Christmas of 2020 with the two white dogs and us posing in front of the Christmas tree.

SMITH: I'm trying to get an overview of topics --


CRUMBLEY: Animals, us going on vacation. Sand dunes. Camping. Holidays. More camping. Horses, garden. My home stuff. Cooking. More camping pictures. We got a bathroom remodel. Another Christmas picture.

SMITH: OK. And these pictures, they give an idea of the variety of things you posted.


SMITH: So if your Facebook messages appear to have more discussion of horses, how would you characterize the amount of horses on Facebook compared to the rest of your life?

CRUMBLEY: Over the last couple of years more, it was hard getting a picture of my son as he got older. He didn't like me taking pictures of him. But over, between 2020, up until end of 2021, there are a lot of pictures on horses.

[13:39:59] SMITH: OK. I'm going to unplug this into Exhibit C. I -- this goes back to 2019. I just put like one or two pictures from that year as Exhibit C.


SMITH: We'll see in D. If the court just wants to let me know what --


SMITH: OK, So C and D. Can you identify those pictures?


SMITH: What's in C.? What's the date of it?

CRUMBLEY: It's June 26, 2019.

SMITH: OK. What is that a picture of?

CRUMBLEY: It's a picture of my son holding his chinchilla.

SMITH: OK. And what about a picture -- let's see here -- D?

CRUMBLEY: Do you need the date?

SMITH: Yes, we need the date.

CRUMBLEY: It's August 9th, 2019.

SMITH: OK. What's the picture of?

CRUMBLEY: My son petting our horse.


KEAST: Judge, it's fine. I don't have any problem.


KEAST: Yes. The rest of them.

SMITH: The rest of them?


SMITH: OK, thank you.

OK, so --

MATTHEWS: You are talking about these pictures, and others, so --

SMITH: I'm sorry.


SMITH: (INAUDIBLE). I'll add on just one more.

Mrs. Crumbley -- (INAUDIBLE)

MATTHEWS: OK, do you want -- (INAUDIBLE)



MATTHEWS: Do you agree -- (INAUDIBLE)

KEAST: Yes. We just need the dates identified, that's all.


SMITH: I can get them to her if I need to look at them, so.

I think they're not objecting any of them.

KEAST: No. No.



SMITH: OK. So this is from Missouri -- let's go through them. We are going to identify that date for the record. OK?

So going to exhibit, let's see, this is C. What is the date on C?

CRUMBLEY: That's June 26, 2019.

SMITH: What is that?

CRUMBLEY: That's my son with his chinchilla.

SMITH: OK. I'm going down to D. What's the date on that one?

CRUMBLEY: That one is August 9th, 2019.

SMITH: What's going on in there?

CRUMBLEY: That's my son with our horse.

SMITH: I'm going to go to E.

CRUMBLEY: That is his first --

KEILAR: We're listening to the testimony of Jennifer Crumbley, who is the mother of convicted Oxford High School shooter, Ethan Crumbley.

Here she is talking about some of the pictures that she took and posted on Facebook of her son, but also a lot of her hobby, which was horses.

Certainly, a case was made that she wasn't paying enough attention to the needs of her son. We see them laying the groundwork here as they try to rebut that and the defense.

Historic trial here. A lot of ramifications for other school shootings and the potential for holding parents responsible here.

We're going to take a quick break. Then we'll be right back to listen to more of her testimony from Michigan.



SANCHEZ: We continue to track live developments out of this courtroom in Pontiac, Michigan, where Jennifer Crumbley is now going through Facebook posts with the defense, who is trying to describe her relationship with her son and family activities that they shared.

We are, of course, going to keep monitoring what is unfolding in court.

But we want to get some perspective now. We have with us CNN correspondent, Jean Casarez, who's been tracking this case very closely.

Jean, what stands out to you about what the defense has shown so far? They've asked a lot about her personal life.

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Front and center showing the other side of the story, showing that this was a normal family.

You've got jurors that are watching this, inches away, and many of them are parents. Watching this about the holidays and what they do, and what their son did, and the disciplinary -- not disciplinary, but like he wouldn't do his math work sheet, and things like that, it's relate-able.

And as far as her demeanor, she's not emotional. We saw her very emotional this morning. But she appeared to be very honest to talk about, she was petrified to talk in public, that was her greatest fear.

You saw the hives that just started going over her body. She still has them right now up there because of her nerves. So at this point, it seems very real.

But on the direct examination, it is very easy, right? She's just talking about her life. There is going to be cross-examination, and that will be very aggressive.

KEILAR: Jean, what did you think about the coverage of the topic of the bedroom? And also her explaining why she had actually meant to have gone through the bedroom but she had been putting it off, she had put it off around Thanksgiving as she was dealing with an oven situation.

What is that the groundwork for? CASAREZ: First thing that came to my mind was that that she did have

access to that bedroom. Not only did she have access but she had cleaned that bedroom.

What would you see as you're cleaning the bedroom? He had many things in that bedroom that, for all intents and purposes, the parents did not know about, the journal, his phone, his computer, if he had one, what he was researching on there.

So her cleaning it may not have been going one step further to look what those things had to say, believing that that was his journal, and his private writings.

We'll have to see how the prosecutor develops that. But she obviously had access to the bedroom and went through it by cleaning.


SANCHEZ: Jean, another moment that stood out was when the defense asked her point blank if Ethan had ever expressed to her a desire to seek a medical professional for mental health issues. They specifically went with that question.

There is some consideration about what the jury has seen, given that there were text messages that Ethan sent, right,, in which he told a friend that he had sought help from his parents and his parents denied him.

She said that a couple of times Ethan had expressed anxiety about his life after high school, and that is why his dad contacted a counselor at the school to talk about his options, but that he'd never directly went to them seeking a connection to a psychiatrist, right?

CASAREZ: Yes. So if you're the jury right now, all you know about is that Ethan wrote in his journal, "I'm asking my parents for help, they're laughing at me, they're not doing anything."

She is now testifying under oath that she never saw any reason to have to get any help at all.

Here is what the jury is not going to find out, because it is privileged. Ethan said it to a psychiatrist after he was arrested. The psychologist is talking about this.

He says, you know what, I was lying. I didn't ever ask my parents for help. I was lying as I was putting it in my journal that I was asking them. I didn't.

And then Ethan, at his sentencing, said, I have lied to a lot of people, and I did this all by myself.

But the jury is not going to hear that. They're only going to hear, Boris, what you just said, those two things. So they're going to have to weigh the credibility of Jennifer versus really their credibility of the person not in the room, Ethan Crumbley. KEILAR: They're going, Jean, through all her Facebook posts, which are

copious. And her attorney is asking her about the fact that she seems to have a lot more photos of her horses than she does of her son.

Talk a little bit about, if you would, about why that is going to be, and has been, an issue in this case?

CASAREZ: Because the legal standard is, did she care about those horses so much, every day going out there, three to five times a week, is what the owner of the horse farm said, that she would go out to her horses. Her husband, too.

Ethan never went out there. She said maybe he went out once. So was it grossly negligent when you have a child who is just staying at, sometimes alone for hours, sometimes, we even heard, overnight, possibly alone.

And that then gross negligence caused the death of those four students once he got the gun and went to the school and committed the mass shooting. It's important to see what her priorities were.

We heard just a minute ago that Ethan didn't like to go to the horse farm. He was scared about the horse farm. And he didn't like pictures being taken of him. She just testified to that.

She will probably explain it, but that is where the prosecution is going.

SANCHEZ: There was another moment where the defense was asking her about his best friend, and the type of relationship that they had, the amount of time that they spent together, and what happened to Ethan's demeanor after that best friend moved away.

Explain the significance of that portion of the testimony?

CASAREZ: This best friend was the one that Ethan wrote thousands of texts to, saying what he was going to do at the school. They went to school together.

Saying what he was going to do with the school. He was going to get the gun, he was going to commit a mass shooting, and all these details.

That he was researching if Michigan had the death penalty because he wasn't going to do it if Michigan had the death penalty, but they don't, so I'm going to go through with it.

That friend -- and the jury does not know this -- but he was actually -- and there might be some hints to it in the trial.

But he was taken out of state and to a rehab facility in Ohio. And the jury doesn't know the extent of it and we don't know the extent of it, but he was taken out of school, out of state immediately. And that was the best friend of Ethan's.

And that's the one she's been testifying would always come to the house.

KEILAR: When they're going through all of these photos and they're showing pictures of Ethan, I know she said that he didn't like taking photos, but you see some from when he appears considerably younger than he was when this crime was committed.

Also pointing out, there he is holding a chinchilla, kind of looking like a normal kid, and enjoying animals.

What is the point of what they're showing here? Just that this is how she saw him?

CASAREZ: That they were neglected, that he wasn't neglected, that they weren't grossly negligent, that they did things as families did to ensure the normalcy within the household.

So that that foreseeability, because that's an element too of this, the foreseeability that Ethan would commit that mass shooting, that it wasn't there. The life was just like a normal family. And also to relate to jurors.


SANCHEZ: Jean, we'll let you get back to watching the testimony. Really interesting dynamic at play, important.

Again, this could potentially be historic. It's a novel, unusual legal theory where prosecutors are alleging that this gunman's parents, due to their action or lack of action, are responsible for the deaths of students at Oxford High School.

KEILAR: That's right. And while she is -- Jennifer Crumbley is facing trouble right now, her husband will face trial separately. That's expected to begin early next month. He is the one who purchased the gun that Ethan used. So that is obviously going to be a separate issue.

But we will be right back with more of the testimony of Jennifer Crumbley in Pontiac, Michigan, here in just a moment.