Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of the Michigan school shooter, sobbed in court as her manslaughter trial was shown surveillance footage of her son roaming around his high school with a loaded gun.
Ms Crumbley’s attorneys asked for a 10-minute break after her client was audibly sobbing from the defence table. The court had just watched video footage of Ethan Crumbley pointing his weapon at teachers and classmates.
Her tears sparked a heated exchange among the attorneys.
During the break, the prosecutors raised issues with the defence’s reactions to the footage, arguing the defence was going against the court’s instructions to try to remain composed.
“You’re concerned about the influence of the jury. I take no issue with it. But it was a difficult thing and we’re doing it,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald told the judge. “And then to have not just the defendant, her lawyer sobbing.”
Defence attorney Shannon Smith interjected, “I did not sob.” She said this footage isn’t relevant to this case and that her team has never seen it before.
Ms Smith added, “We were not sobbing or making a scene. All my eye makeup is still on.”
“Everyone here is human,” Judge Cheryl Matthews said, underscoring that she’s “striving for a fair trial.”
“I’m not a robot. I’m trying to keep myself from sobbing. I’ll do it at six tonight,” the judge continued.
Ms Crumbley is facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter after her son murdered four classmates on 30 November 2021 at his high school. He was sentenced last month at the age of 17 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Ms Crumbley is accused of ignoring her son’s “downward spiral”, as prosecutors described it, and making a gun accessible in her home.
She and her husband, James Crumbley, asked to be tried separately. His trial is set for 5 March.
Ms Crumbley’s trial began on 24 January. During opening statements, Marc Keast, Oakland County assistant prosecutor, said: “They weren’t in a car crash. They weren’t sick. They were murdered in an act of terror committed by Jennifer Crumbley’s 15-year-old son.”
He added, “Jennifer Crumbley didn’t pull the trigger that day. But she’s responsible for their deaths.”
Ms Smith quoted Taylor Swift in her opening statements. She said this case was about the prosecution “attempting to put a Band-Aid on problems that can’t be fixed with a Band-Aid”.
“A Band-Aid will never bring back the lives that were lost,” she continued. Ms Crumbley didn’t “have it on her radar in any way that there was any mental disturbance, that her son would ever take a gun into a school, that her son would ever shoot people”.
The Crumbleys trials are historic: They are the first parents in US history to be charged and tried for their alleged role in a mass shooting.