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Prosecutors Cross-Examine Michigan School Shooter's Mom. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 10:00   ET



SARA SIDNER, CNN HOST: A lot of things happen in court, but not yet hearing from the Michigan mother who is going to be cross-examined today for her potential role in the school shooting that left four people dead. Her son, the accused.

We are going to get the very latest from inside the courtroom. The cross-examination has not quite happened yet. We'll bring it to you live.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: The scorching hot jobs report relentlessly good economic news and some evidence that people are starting to feel it.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: The search is on right now and widening for a group of migrants accused of attacking, brutally attacking, two New York police officers, and why officials believe some of them are on their way to Mexico right now.

I'm Kate Bolduan with Sara Sidner and John Berman, this is CNN NEWS CENTRAL.

All right. Court is just about to resume after two breaks in the trial of the Michigan mother who is facing involuntary manslaughter. The judge is trying to decide if a major piece of evidence, text messages between Jennifer Crumbley and her attorney will be allowed in trial, which the defense says could get set a dangerous precedent in the case.

But she opened up the door. So the judge is looking at that now. The case is already historic in its own right.

Jennifer Crumbley is charged with involuntary manslaughter after her son shot and killed four students at Oxford High School in 2021.

He will spend the rest of his life behind bars. And now his mother, Jennifer, trying to avoid jail time herself. She's take -- took the stand yesterday shifting blame to her own husband, but saying this about the violence that's transpired that day at the hands of her son.


JENNIFER CRUMBLEY, MOTHER OF SCHOOL SHOOTER: I've asked myself if I would anything differently and I wouldn't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you could change what happened, would you?

CRUMBLEY: Oh, absolutely. I wish he would have killed us instead.


SIDNER: Wow. With us now Jean Casarez.

What difference would the evidence make in the case of these text messages between her and her attorney busting open the attorney-client privilege?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, the issue is all about flight, because after the mass shooting, the couple stayed in a motel in the -- in the area of where they lived or a couple of nights and then went to Detroit and stayed with a friend in an industrial building actually and they are saying they got threats and they were scared for their life because the community, obviously, to have this mass shooting in Oxford, Michigan, which is part of Pontiac, really suburb of Detroit was huge.


And so yesterday on the stand Jennifer said, you know, we were going to turn ourselves in. And I was texting with my attorney, you, she says, which is, Shannon Smith, and you were -- we were taking your advice on what to do. And we were going to turn ourselves in on Saturday around 8:30 in the morning. But the prosecution doesn't believe that. They thought there was -- that they were fleeing the jurisdiction.

And so they want those texts. And the judge says, look, the attorney- client privilege is absolute, in my opinion. And I don't want to do this, but I feel I have to review these texts. And there aren't too many of them early morning hours of December 4th.

So, Sara, it's right before law enforcement stormed into arrest them. And the judge said, I won't take long if there's not that many to look at. So we're waiting to see what the judge says and what will happen next.

SIDNER: These are two almost unprecedented things happening at the same time, the charging of the parents in this case. And now the potential breaking open of the attorney-client privilege.

I just want to let you know, we have seen Jennifer Crumbley enter court and now we are seeing the judge reenter court. So this could get underway very quickly. We're going to listen in as soon as the judge is seated and the folks in the court are seated.

Let's listen into what the judge has to say because we may hear the decision right here, right now about that issue of attorney-client privilege and what she is going to do. Here we go.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- for Jennifer Crumbley case number 22279990. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning (INAUDIBLE)



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have reviewed the instructions (INAUDIBLE) to the prosecutor of (INAUDIBLE) objections anything on the text (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't. I would ask that if the text change between is used that it's just the admitted as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. OK. So I am going to maintain copy of the text to the screen, and then the personal file. All right. And (INAUDIBLE) a copy over a prosecutor.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Judge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can we continue the trial?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely. Can we have just a minute to look at it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Yes. It will take you more than a minute, but yes.



SIDNER: Jean, I know you're listening intently. We're trying to hear. It's a little bit hard here. But did she just hand over those text messages to the prosecution?


SIDNER: And we heard from the defense attorney saying she had no objections. Is that correct?

CASAREZ: For the prosecution to look at them because that's --


CASAREZ: -- the next step in this process. Prosecutors never seen them. So now he's reviewing them.

But, Sara, there's quite a few pages there. It's not just like one page.

SIDNER: OK. We are waiting for the decision that the attorneys are literally looking over these text messages.

John, this is incredible to sort of watch this play out in court right now.

BERMAN: Yes. Again, I have my eyes on the screen right now, Sara, because I'm trying to wait and see what is said.

The prosecution looking over those text messages. And now I think we've been looking forward again.

SIDNER: It looks like they're leaving court.

BERMAN: I want to bring in criminal defense attorney, Robert Bianchi to talk about this. Big picture what is happening here is because yesterday on the stand, Jennifer Crumbley testified about a conversation we had -- she had with her lawyer, an exchange she had with her lawyer, prior to going to a warehouse where she was ultimately arrested, because she volunteered a conversation with her attorney.

What door does that potentially open up here?

ROBERT BIANCHI, HOST, THE AND CRIME NETWORK: A massive door, John. The bottom line between the attorney-client privilege is it's sacrosanct between the client and the lawyer.

However, the caveat that every attorney knows is that if any communications made in the presence of a third-party or if the client reveals that information to a third-party, they've waived the attorney-client privilege.

So while being on the witness stand has got to be the worst place in the world because, one, you're allowing the conversation between your lawyer and your attorney to now get out into the public domain. And now prosecutors also have a right to cross examine now on that information.

They can't be left as a former homicide prosecutor. I'd be screaming and yelling. She can't say something on direct examination about a communication. And now I'm unable to cross examine her on it. So she opened the door for those to be released.

BERMAN: And what we've been watching in real time is a judge here. No judge wants to pierce attorney-client privilege.


BERMAN: I think always you're predisposed not to do that. But this was such an obvious moment which begs the possibility of seeing more communication. And right now what the judge has done has taken text messages that exist between the Crumbleys and this attorney and given them to the prosecution to review.


The prosecution has left the courtroom and is looking at those text messages, presumably to figure out if they want to pursue questions along that line. Can you explain that?

BIANCHI: Yes, John. In my opinion what's happening right now, and I've been in this situation which I'm now taking the text messages outside. I'm going through with my team as prosecutors.

I'm saying, these following text messages are relevant both maybe substantively to the crime or to attack her credibility on what she said on the witness stand. I'm going to identify what those text messages are and in all likelihood going to go before the court because the court's going to be very careful, as you suggest, and say your honor based upon what I've reviewed, I think that these are relevant and we should be able to bring this out before the jury and the judge will make an ultimate determination if they're going to allow the prosecutors to use it.

BERMAN: OK. So this is happening in real time right now. While this is happening, and I have one eye on the screen here to follow it, the jury is not in the courtroom right now. The jury, I think, thought it was going to hear the cross-examination of Jennifer Crumbley, the defendant today.

Aside from these text messages in the -- in the communications between the attorney and the defendant here, which may or may not come into evidence, what is it the prosecution wants to do in its cross- examination of Miss Crumbley?

BIANCHI: OK. Well, clearly, what the prosecution wants to do, now this is a very novel in my opinion --

BERMAN: It is.

BIANCHI: -- prosecution here. So they want to try to tie as much conduct to the parents to say that they knew or should have known that this was an ultimate outcome. That the mental health issues with the son with the fact that he had a weapon that they were on alert.

That's very difficult because the law requires -- typically, the law is dealing with the actions of what an individual does to another person not a third-party he refuses to intervene in what another person's going to do, but prosecutors are trying to show that it was so grossly negligent to allow him to stay in school knowing his mental health condition, knowing that he had a weapon that therefore, under their theory of the case again a novel theory and maybe a little bit of a dangerous one, going down the road, they want to hold the person -- the parents accountable for their son's actions.

BERMAN: Rob Bianchi, thank you so much for helping us understand everything that's happening here.

And it is a reminder, there's so much emotion in this trial, but there is a legal question here, which to an extent, is very dry and precedent setting and will matter very much beyond this trial going into the future. Thank you so much for explaining it so well.

We're going to watch this very closely. We have an immediate decision on what evidence will be allowed and potentially, Kate, the testimony, the cross-examination of the defendant.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. We see Jennifer Crumbley standing up right now. It looks like -- let's just sit on this together.

BERMAN: She's taking the stand.

BOLDUAN: In fact, she's heading right back to the stand, John. Let's listen in.

BERMAN: They are bringing in the jury to this courtroom now. We are about to see the cross-examination of the defendant, Jennifer Crumbley in this case.

This is a moment that a lot of people have been waiting for in this trial .It promises to be emotional and promises to be probably fairly confrontational.

Again, the jury being brought in here. The outcome of the technical question about how much of the exchange between the defendant and her attorneys will be allowed in? I don't know that we learn the outcome of that, but it -- but that is something that presumably will come up over the next probably several hours as this testimony takes place, Kate.

BOLDUAN: One thing that we -- that you're both were discussing is just the precedent setting nature of this first of its kind trial. And this is part of that. What we know is that the defense attorney tried to neutralize some of or lessen maybe the blow of some of what we heard from prosecutors and the multitude of witnesses that they brought to the stand before this.

And we're going to wait for the jury to come in. And now this is, as you said, I would -- I would not be surprised if this was confrontational, because this is going to get two text messages. He's going to speak to the dynamic in that family what she thought, felt, and did or didn't do, John.


BERMAN: And remember, one of the things that Crumbley testified to yesterdays she said, she wouldn't change a thing. Let's listen to the judge.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We did not, as I described for you, and you think about sometimes things come up. We need to take care of legal issues. I usually try to do that when you're not waiting for us, but that's not how it was possible.

So I see the patience and we are going to continue on a possible (INAUDIBLE)

Great. Miss Crumbley, will you raise your right hand? Do you swear and affirm your testimony you're about to give is the truth, so help you God? CRUMBLEY: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You could put your hand down. And if you could just state your name for the record (INAUDIBLE) spell your first and last name.

CRUMBLEY: My name is Jennifer Crumbley. J-E-N-N-I-F-E-R C-R-U-M-B-L-E- Y.


MARC KEAST, ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR FOR OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN: Thank you. Mrs. Crumbley, I'd like to talk to you about your vigilance as a parent. But before I do, I want to make sure that you understood the oath that you just took.


KEAST: OK. You understand that you took the stand under oath and you have to tell the truth?


KEAST: You understand that was the rules yesterday as well?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: All right. We're going to come back to that.

Now you've been described by your attorney as a hyper vigilant parent.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. Do you agree with that?


KEAST: In fact, you called yourself a helicopter parent before.

CRUMBLEY: Yes, I was.

KEAST: So you told us you've spent a lot of family time together.


KEAST: Now, I'd like to talk to you about what your digital footprint shows.


KEAST: What the evidence on your phone shows.


KEAST: Now, it's true. You agree with me that having horses is pretty time-consuming hobby? CRUMBLEY: I can be.

KEAST: OK. It was for you?

CRUMBLEY: It can be.

KEAST: And that's what you said yesterday?


KEAST: OK. And you were at the barn for between three and five times a week?

CRUMBLEY: Mm. More like three times a week.

KEAST: Three times a week --


KEAST: -- for a couple hours of the trip?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. It's also an expensive hobby.


KEAST: So your banking records show that in the year of 2021 you spent over $20,000 on the horses. Is it correct?

CRUMBLEY: Probably.

KEAST: OK. And that's not including cash. That's just from Capital One and Flagstar Bank?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: In fact, you told a co-worker that half of your salary basically goes to the horses.

CRUMBLEY: I might have yes.

KEAST: Now, except on a rare occasion, you didn't bring your son with you to the barn.

CRUMBLEY: He was not into horses. I would ask every time I went to the barn, but he didn't want to go.

KEAST: So the answer was no?


KEAST: OK. And at least as far as your horses being born here in (INAUDIBLE) from June of 2021 to November of 2021, your son never went with you? Is that correct?

CRUMBLEY: No, I think he went once when my in-laws were in town and we met them at the barn.

KEAST: OK. But there was nothing stopping you from taking him?

CRUMBLEY: No. He just didn't want to go.

KEAST: OK. It's a family atmosphere.

CRUMBLEY: It can be.

KEAST: OK. Like the Halloween party that you get. That was for families?

CRUMBLEY: Yeah. Most of the kids there are young.

KEAST: OK. In the winters, you were on ski patrol as well?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. And that could be a bit of a time consuming hobby.

CRUMBLEY: It can be.

KEAST: All right. And you would be in ski patrol between one and two times a week?

CRUMBLEY: It's a total of 10 hours a week.

KEAST: Ten hours a week. OK. So, how many days?

CRUMBLEY: I did doubles on Saturday. So one day a week for me.

KEAST: OK. So you told this jury yesterday you depicted your affair with Mr. Meloche. This is a one time a week meet up at a Costco parking lot.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: Is that your testimony?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. But it wasn't just that, wasn't it?


KEAST: OK. In fact, there are numerous photographs sent to Mr. Meloche.


KEAST: Yes or no?

CRUMBLEY: I'm sure there was.

KEAST: OK. Numerous messages exchanged with him.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And it wasn't just during the week Monday through Friday, wasn't it?


KEAST: No. In fact, that's what you said yesterday. But in fact, it included trips?

CRUMBLEY: There were actual business trips that he met me on.

KEAST: OK. And included other individuals?


KEAST: What's AdultFriendFinder?

CRUMBLEY: It's where you can go on and meet people who meet certain tastes that you're looking for.


KEAST: And you have the app, AdultFriendFinder on your phone?

CRUMBLEY: I do not believe I had the app on my phone.

KEAST: It was found on your phone.

CRUMBLEY: OK. Well, I guess it was on my phone.

KEAST: OK. And there were messages from you to other individuals.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're under, Jen, but this is going outside of the scope of the affair with Brian -- but --

KEAST: I don't think the court's ruling on opening the door was -- and find just her extra marital affair with Brian Meloche.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I guess with regard to the (INAUDIBLE) I determined that the defense open the door (INAUDIBLE) that I determined that the defense open the door as to other.


KEAST: She depicted herself as having one extra marital affair for about a six-month period of time. Of course, she met with him one time a week. Those were her testimony yesterday. We have evidence to the contrary. And I think it's important.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it's exciting.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right. Well, we don't have that -- KEAST: I won't delve too far -- delve into it, Judge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I believe that this story does take a long time and --

KEAST: I respect your time, Judge. And I'll be brief.


KEAST: So, Mrs. Crumbley -- I'm sorry, this is not a laughing matter. Mrs. Crumbley, an AdultFriendFinder, we see messages from you in at least August of 2021, August the 4th, 2021.


KEAST: OK. And you don't dispute August the 10th of 2021?


KEAST: August the 11th of 2021?


KEAST: And more importantly, November 21st, 2021?


KEAST: OK. And more important than that, November the 28th, 2020?


KEAST: OK. You don't dispute that, I know this is not a problem.

CRUMBLEY: I don't dispute it.

KEAST: OK. And you don't dispute that it wasn't just you and Mr. Meloche meeting after work hours. It was you and Mr. Meloche arranged with under other individuals to meet after work as well?

CRUMBLEY: No. I only met with Brian during work hours. The times that we were at the hotel, I was on business. We did arrange for other people to meet us there.

KEAST: So Sunday, November the 28th, you remember that day?


KEAST: It was a day after you took your son to the shooting range.

CRUMBLEY: I don't remember it.

KEAST: You don't remember that day?


KEAST: Two days before the high school attack? CRUMBLEY: No. I don't remember what I did that day.

KEAST: OK. Well, you were pretty specific and once you did on November the 27th with the firearm, you remember that?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: All right. Now, November the 28th, 2021, you spent your time arranging a meet-up with somebody on the AdultFriendFinder.

CRUMBLEY: I never met anybody with an -- on AdultFriendFinder on that day.

KEAST: Arranging a meet-up.


KEAST: I'm not just talking about the time that you spent physically with somebody. I'm talking about the time that you spent and devoted your energy to setting that up.


KEAST: And you'll agree with me, it's not just the time period, the Costco parking lot, or the time period at the hotel, or the time period on the trip, correct?

CRUMBLEY: That's the only time I met with people.

KEAST: Right. But that's not the only time that you devoted your own personal time and energy and focus to that, is it?

CRUMBLEY: I guess I don't understand what you're asking.

KEAST: OK. Well, these meet-ups didn't just happen by themselves, you had to set them up.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: You weren't driven there. You weren't dropped off there. You set them up with somebody else.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And that took your time and your energy and your focus to do so.

CRUMBLEY: I don't believe it took too much time and energy. No.

KEAST: Now, you told this jury that when your son texted you, that he was seeing demons and bowls flying off the shelves. That was in the spring of 2020, when you recall it happens, right?

CRUMBLEY: Correct. KEAST: You don't dispute that that was on your phone?


KEAST: You don't dispute that at some point you read those messages?


KEAST: And you don't dispute that your son said, at least one time, can you please text me back?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. You don't just -- you don't dispute that when you're at the barn, your other messages show that you can take pictures, send pictures, and receive pictures.

CRUMBLEY: Usually I'm at the barn, if I take pictures and I try to send them, they don't go through right away. Or I won't send them until I hit a spot where I actually have service.

KEAST: So in Exhibit 423, the Facebook message chat between you and James, the chat that you deleted, there are a number of pictures that James sent to you from the barn of a horse in a conversation about that particular horse.


KEAST: Do you dispute that?


KEAST: OK. And in fact, dozens and dozens of pictures of the like.

CRUMBLEY: I'm sure, yes. KEAST: You're sure. OK. And those pictures were sent to you with a timestamp on that Facebook message chat.


KEAST: Do you dispute that?


KEAST: No. OK. And then you responded in that same time frame, do you dispute that?


KEAST: No. So that conversation with that picture that was taken at the barn was occurring while one of you were at the barn?

CRUMBLEY: I'm sure it was.

KEAST: OK. Now, you don't deny that your son wrote in his journal that he asked his parents for help. You don't deny that evidence that was submitted.

CRUMBLEY: No, I don't. KEAST: OK. And you don't deny that he wrote his journal, that he now had access to the SIG Sauer nine millimeter handgun?

CRUMBLEY: I did not deny that.

KEAST: And you don't deny that the SIG Sauer nine millimeter handgun was in fact the murder weapon?

CRUMBLEY: I don't deny that.

KEAST: And you also don't deny that that gun was gifted by you and your husband to your son on November 26th?

CRUMBLEY: Describe gifted.

KEAST: How about when you posted on Instagram his new Christmas gift?

CRUMBLEY: Correct. And I explained yesterday that it was for him to use at the shooting range. We didn't just hand him a gun as a, here- you-go-son. It was something he could use when we went to the range as a family together.


KEAST: You don't deny that on April of 2021 you describe your son as being depressed?

CRUMBLEY: I didn't describe him as being depressed. I noticed that he was acting depressed.

KEAST: You used the word depressed.

CRUMBLEY: Yes, he was acting sad. He was acting depressed.

KEAST: OK. And you know what depressed means?

CRUMBLEY: It means a lot of different things.

KEAST: Well, to you it meant depressed. And you wrote that.


KEAST: You don't deny in April of 2021, the evidence shows that your son told his only friend, that he had asked you for help.

CRUMBLEY: No, I don't deny that.

KEAST: OK. And you also don't deny that he told his only friends that you left that?

CRUMBLEY: I did not deny that.

KEAST: Now, yesterday, you told us that you took those messages in the spring of 2021, which by the way, is at the same time you started your affair with Mr. Meloche?

CRUMBLEY: Around that time.

KEAST: OK. So, in the spring of 2021, when you send those messages, or when you receive those messages, you indicated it was messing around?


KEAST: It was messing around. And you're my messing around. That's where your testimony was.


KEAST: OK. Even when he said, can you please text me back?

CRUMBLEY: I didn't see his text message, so I didn't text him back.

KEAST: Even when your phone logs show missed calls.

CRUMBLEY: Can you ask that again?

KEAST: Even when your phone logs show missed calls from your son at that time period.


KEAST: No. You said yesterday about these messing around texts. You agree with me that there's no indication in any text message, either between you and your son or any Facebook message between you and your husband in any of those exhibits.

In fact, anywhere in your phone that indicated that any of those messages were a joke.

CRUMBLEY: No, they weren't.

KEAST: They weren't. And we're talking about hundreds of messages between you and your son, and thousands of messages between you and your husband.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And you don't deny that you never once, never once, took them to see a therapist or counselor.

CRUMBLEY: No, I did not.

KEAST: You did not. Now you testified, that actually Mr. Meloche testified, that you would meet during work hours and we've established that it wasn't just confined to work hours, but you were permitted to leave as you please.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. And your boss actually testified that no problem for you to time off.

CRUMBLEY: Correct. KEAST: If you have a family issue, no problem, you can go.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: If you were sick, no problem, stay home.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. In fact, you could work from home as an -- on an -- and as needed basis.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: In fact, on November the 30th, you didn't even ask your boss if you could leave. You just told him you were leaving.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And you told him when you were coming back.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: And you told him when you were coming back after receiving a phone call from the school asking for an immediate meeting.

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: Because that was at what? 10:05 A.M.?

CRUMBLEY: Around that.

KEAST: OK. Now had you ever been called -- have a CDN (PH) please, Mr. Williams?

Have you ever been called --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It takes its time to operate them.

KEAST: Sure. I have a few more questions I can ask before we get to Zoom.


KEAST: Have you ever been called to the school on an immediate basis before?


KEAST: Have you ever been told that your son had suicidal ideation before?

CRUMBLEY: I was never told he had suicidal ideation before.

KEAST: OK. That's your testimony. But you've never been called to this school once for a meeting, I need to see you now.


KEAST: Correct?

CRUMBLEY: Correct.

KEAST: OK. So even before you were --


BOLDUAN: You were listening to the cross-examination of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Michigan school shooter on trial.

Right now, we're going to take a quick break. We're going to get right back to this important moment.