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Prosecutors to Cross-examine Michigan School Shooter's Mom Jennifer Crumbley; Today, Deadline for DA Fani Willis to Respond to Affair Allegations; Three Killed in Plane Crash Scene at Florida Mobile Home Park; Another Dangerous Atmospheric River Threatens Southern California; Seven Arrested, Accused of Attacking Police Outside NY Migrant Shelter; 139 Passengers, Crew Fall Ill on Queen Victoria Cruise Ship. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 09:30   ET




SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right. We are still waiting at this point for cross-examination of Jennifer Crumbley to begin in a Michigan courtroom. You remember that she is the mother on trial because her son ended up in a school, and shot and killed four people. And she is now being prosecuted for potential involuntary manslaughter. There is so much going on in this case.

CNN's Jean Casarez is watching every single minute. We also have attorney Areva Martin who is joining us. They have been out talking about a really important issue that, Jean, you brought up before. What could happen here? Could we actually see text between the attorney and Crumbley?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, and that is normally attorney/client privilege, right? And the judge just said on the stand, you know, this is for me to waive, attorney/client privilege. That is a very serious situation. And she's not ready to do it right now but here is what it is. Yesterday, when Jennifer Crumbley was on the stand, they were talking about them staying in Detroit, staying at motels for a couple of night. Prosecution's theory is they fled, that they were going -- I even (ph) heard in opening statements, Canada potentially, they thought they might be going to. But the defense is saying they were getting threats and we have seen some of those threats on social media, purporting violence against them.

They were scared and she testified to that. So that's why they were going to a motel and went to a place in Detroit, always intending to turn themselves in. Well, apparently, there are texts between Jennifer Crumbley and her attorney about them out of the jurisdiction, turning themselves in. Prosecutors said you opened the door. Jennifer Crumbley opened the door yesterday. We should have all of that. And so, the judge is now looking at these communications between an attorney and a client, to see if she is going to waive that privilege and can be cross-examined because the defense doesn't think that she was going to turn herself in -- prosecution. SIDNER: And just so you know, the prosecution. So, just so you know, this is such a huge issue because attorney-client privilege is sacrosanct. It is really a big deal to open that up to a jury. We are still watching the judge. The judge is talking on the stand right now. Usually, they would have started already. But there are all these issues they are trying to work out. Viva, I want to bring you in. Can you talk about what -- how they would do this? Would the judge decide exactly what the prosecutors would get? I mean, someone other than the prosecution is going to have to look at these texts to make sure that they are not going beyond the scope of what was said on the stand. Correct?

AREVA MARTIN, ATTORNEY: Oh, absolutely. So, the judge is going to have to look at each and every one of the text messages and make that ultimate decision. You can believe that if this judge does decide that these text messages are coming in (inaudible) in this trial, you can expect the defense lawyer to immediately ask perhaps for the trial to be halted, to cease the proceedings, so that she can file an immediate appeal of this matter because text messages between a lawyer and a client are rarely, if ever, brought into a trial.


But, I think that (inaudible) that the judge would (inaudible) doesn't allow for the violation or for the opening up of the attorney/client privilege. So, it will be interesting to see how this judge actually decides this issue.

SIDNER: There have been so many things in this particular case, whether it be writings in a journal by Ethan Crumbley, the shooter in this case, or the mom taking the stand. Areva, give us some sense of just how unusual it is for a defendant in a case like this to take the stand and then say things that are opening up more possibilities for the prosecution to delve deeper into what happened and all her conversations with her attorneys.

MARTIN: Well, Sara, that's why you don't see very many defendants take the witness stand, even in their own defense, in cases where they may have something to say and perhaps they have things that could cause the jurors to believe that they are not (ph) guilty. But it's dangerous. I mean it's risky because, as you just said, you could open the door inadvertently, just by making a statement, and before you know it, you can find yourself in this kind of dispute that's happening before our very eyes in real time.

I'm sure that Jennifer and her lawyer went over her testimony for hours and hours and hours before she took the witness stand. But even after you have been fully prepared by an attorney, it's so easy to make the kind of comment that Jennifer made on the witness stand. And it is so easy to find yourself in a line of questioning that was not anticipated by the attorney. So, it is always risky.

SIDNER: And we should mention also, it's intimidating to be on a stand. It's intimidating to be in a courtroom, whether you are the defendant or you are just a witness. There is a nerve factor that always happens here, which is something that attorneys warn their clients about as well. Areva Martin, we will check back in with you. Thank you so much to Jean Casarez. We will be waiting when they do start cross-examination and we will bring it to you live. Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, we are keeping a very close eye on that courtroom. We have got that live camera in there for us all.

There's also this, it's deadline day for Fani Willis, what we are watching for in Georgia and what it could mean for Donald Trump's election subversion case there. We will be back.



BOLDUAN: So, it is deadline day for Fani Willis, the Fulton County District Attorney who is spearheading the Georgia election subversion case against Donald Trump. She must respond today. And this all has to do with the allegations that have been brought by some of Trump's co- defendants and Trump himself eventually, that she had an inappropriate relationship with the lead prosecutor she appointed to this very case. And now, that threatens to derail one of the very serious criminal cases against cases against the former president.

CNN's Zachary Cohen joins us now. He has got much more on this. And Zach, you have had some exclusive reporting throughout on Fani Willis' thinking, her plans, but what are you expecting to happen today?

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yeah, Kate, this will be the first time we are going to see Fani Willis directly address these allegations that you mentioned of an improper romantic relationship with her lead prosecutor. And sources are telling me that it is going to focus heavily on disputing the legal argument raised by Trump's attorney Steve Sadow and Trump's two co-defendants that she should be disqualified from this case because of these allegations. And they also argue that the case itself should be thrown out.

So, that will be a heavy focus of Fani Willis' response that we anticipate getting today. Fani Willis has been personally involved in crafting this language, I'm told that by multiple sources. She's been quiet publically, but behind the scenes, really focused on these allegations and on this effort to get her pushed out of the case. And it really does set up a crucial two-week window for Fani Willis. We have this hearing, a hearing on these allegations scheduled for February 15th and Fani Willis has been subpoenaed to testify at that hearing.

Looking ahead, the judge has really made a point to want to project fairness in this case. And so, it is entirely possible that Fani Willis will be forced to take the stand in this hearing in about two weeks, and that hearing will be dictated and set up around her response today.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. It's going to be really interesting to see what happens in that hearing with Judge McAfee. It's great to see you, Zach. Thank you so much for bringing your reporting. Sara? SIDNER: All right. In less than one week, the Supreme Court is going to hear arguments on whether or not Donald Trump can stay on the ballot in Colorado. His legal team is preparing their strategy. The case was kicked to the High Court after Colorado determined Trump should not be allowed to run for office, again, because of his role in the January 6th Insurrection. A similar ruling was reached in Maine.

CNN's Joan Biskupic joins us this morning to share her new reporting. Joan, as you are looking at this, what are you now learning about how attorneys on both sides of this case are preparing to argue this case, which is a hugely impactful case? This is about a president, this is about his ability to run in two states. It couldn't get bigger, really.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SENIOR SUPREME COURT ANALYST: No, Sara. And it's six days and counting. As you said, consider the stakes, it could determine who is the next president of the United States, at least who ends up on the ballot. And consider the pressure. And we have two relatively inexperienced lawyers before these justices. One lawyer, Jason Murray, representing the Colorado voters who do not want Trump on the ballot, has never argued before the justices.


He has other strengths that we will get to. But, he has never appeared at the lectern there. Jonathan Mitchell, who will be appearing on behalf of Donald Trump, has argued a handful of times before the justices, but nothing like this kind of case. So, how are they getting ready? They are both, as of today, moving their operations to Washington, D.C., and tapping into a very sophisticated network of lawyers who have argued many times before the justices and can help channel the justices.

One of the main devices they will use are these dry runs called moot courts. And that's where about four or five lawyers, not nine as in the real venue, four or five lawyers sit up on a mock bench or at a table and fire questions at these individual lawyers. It gives them a chance to not just practice their presentations, but to expose weaknesses in their presentations, so that they can fix things ahead of time. There's an adage that says the tougher the moot court, the easier the actual thing.

So, there will be the kinds of individuals that organizers of moot courts try to get -- are folks, men and women with several arguments, dozens of arguments under their belt. They often turn to former members of the U.S. Solicitor General's Office, which represents the federal government at the court and argues often. They turn to former law clerks. As I said, they turn to a host of repeat practitioners. And many of those moot judges, pretend justices, take on the tendencies of the justices themselves.

Everyone who has followed the court for a while knows that Justices Elena Kagan on the left and Samuel Alito on the right can throw these wild hypotheticals that will target the real weaknesses of a case. And then, you also have to keep your eye on Chief Justice John Roberts at the ideological center with Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. Those are the ones to try to win over, Sara.

SIDNER: The moot court is so, so, so important because for attorneys, this is like preparing for the Super Bowl, (inaudible), right?


SIDNER: I mean, going in front of these judges is extremely rare and huge, especially in this -- and this case is -- you are looking at some of the most exciting times for the Supreme Court as a reporter. This has to be incredible for you to watch all of this happening. I can't wait to hear what it's like in there.

BISKUPIC: And I will be right there in the courtroom, Sara, watching both of these men.

SIDNER: I know you will.


SIDNER: All right, Joan Biskupic, I appreciate it. Thank you. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Authorities searching the smoldering scene of a small plane crash in Florida where several people were killed. We have got new details on the investigation.



SIDNER: White noise. New this morning, authorities are investigating a small plane crash that killed several people at a Florida mobile home park. Officials say the plane was found predominantly in one home, and three others then ignited in a fiery crash. The FAA says the pilot reported engine failure before disappearing from radar about three miles from the runway.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has the latest details on this for us. Boy, this is an awful scenario. Do we know what time this happened? It looks like it is quite dark there and people were probably in their homes, had no idea.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, a really awful scenario. One witness described hearing what sounded like an explosion and then going out and seeing this fire ball and multiple mobile homes on fire. We are just learning though from our preliminary FAA report that was just released this morning, yes, this happened just past 7:00 p.m. yesterday, but also three people were killed in this crash. One person in the plane, believed to be the pilot at this point, two on the ground, believed to be in the home that this small plane crashed into.

And again, as we understand from authorities, this plane was -- did put out a distress signal, essentially the pilot saying, mayday, mayday. So, it alerted Air Traffic Control that there was some sort of issue and clearly something that the pilot was conscious of at the time. The plane then went off of radar around three miles or so past the Clearwater, Florida airport runway. This is where this happened, in Clearwater, Florida. Where the plane went off the radar, that is the location of the trailer park, mobile home area where the plane crashed into one.

There was either some sort of explosion, at the very least flames that then spread to four other mobile homes as well. And again, as we learned from the FAA, one person killed, believed to be the only person inside this plane, again, based on preliminary data, the pilot being the only one, and then the two that were killed were on the ground. Though authorities did say last night, they were working to try to put out some of the hot spots, so they could work through the scene and try to see if there were potentially people trapped under debris or just to make sure they're covering all their bases here.

Now, the only other thing will say is that, yes, the FAA, according to them, this was due to engine failure. That what was reported last night. This report though, interestingly, says that the aircraft crashed under unknown circumstances. So, this could just be a situation where they're trying to be as cautious as possible until they have a final conclusion, but at the very least, a tragic situation.

SIDNER: Right. It is one of those unexpected ways to die. What a horrible scenario there. Omar Jimenez, thank you so much for the reporting. John?

BERMAN: This morning, California bracing for a powerful storm, a so- called atmospheric river could soak much of the state, even more flooding is expected after torrential rains left roads under water yesterday. Fire crews rescued people from submerged cars and a flooded storm channel.

So, a group of migrants seen on video and charged with attacking New York City police officers are now apparently on the run. Seven people were arrested. A law enforcement official tells CNN four of them were charged and released, and used false names to get bus tickets from a charity and they are now believed to be headed by bus to Mexico.


139 passengers and crew on the cruise ship, the Queen Victoria, are sick with gastrointestinal symptoms. The Cunard cruise line ship left England last month on an around-the-world voyage with stops the Florida, Aruba, California and Hawaii. The affected passengers and crew have been isolated while they recover. Cunard says it is cleaning and disinfecting, which is probably good news for the 2,000 people still on board that ship.

And if you're looking for some warmer weather, look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's Pungsxsutawney Phil!


BERMAN: The national media scam, Pungsxsutawney Phil, the renowned groundhog weather predictor. He says there will be an early spring. Connecticut's Scramble the Duck agrees with Phil. His city of Eastford claims he has been 100 percent accurate, but Lucy the lobster in Nova Scotia --

BOLDUAN: What is happening?


BERMAN: I've lost the thread here. Lucy the lobster in Nova Scotia says, not so fast. Apparently, the lobster saw her shadow, which means it could be another six weeks of winter. All right. There's more.

BOLDUAN: Wait, there is?


BERMAN: Bee Cave Bob, the Texas armadillo, will make his prediction --

BOLDUAN: Wait. The what?

BERMAN: -- this afternoon. Kate?


BOLDUAN: Can a lobster see its shadow?


BOLDUAN: Like, I don't know what to do. I don't know what to do here, other than I will -- I've completely lost it. Other than that, I like the movie "Groundhog Day." I don't know -- how do you feel about it, John? Why did you just put the camera on me to have the reaction and humiliate myself in front of several people?

BERMAN: I am trying to reach Lucy the Lobster right now.

BOLDUAN: I would like you to get her on the phone.


BOLDUAN: And then after that, call the armadillo and ask them why his name or her name is Bee Cave.

BERMAN: Their name.

BOLDUAN: Their name. Thank you, John. That was a good one.

OK. We're going to continue following that. We're also going to take you back to Michigan for real news. The mother of the killer -- the mother of a killer is getting ready to be back on the stand. We are learning more about why Jennifer Crumbley's second day of testimony was suddenly delayed this morning, the judge leaving the courtroom, coming back in and then leaving a second time. We're getting some more details about what this is about and about what this means for this first of its kind trial, and what the judge is now considering. We'll be back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)