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Mother of Michigan school shooter testifies in her trial that's related to the attack

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In a Michigan courtroom today, the key figure takes the stand again in a rare case that charges a parent with involuntary manslaughter for the actions of her child. Prosecutors are making the argument that Jennifer Crumbley and her husband could have taken steps to stop their son from gunning down four classmates and wounding several other people at Oxford High School in November 2021. Quinn Klinefelter with member station WDET is following the case, and he's with us now. Quinn, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So the parents requested separate trials, and Jennifer Crumbley's is underway now. Her husband's is set for next month. Just say more about the specific argument the prosecutors are making in this case.

KLINEFELTER: Well, it's pretty straightforward. They say the parents ignored signs that their son was seriously troubled. Instead, they bought him the handgun he used in the school shooting. Prosecutors also say the son texted a friend that he was hallucinating and that he wanted to see a doctor, but his parents refused to take him.

MARTIN: So it was the defense that actually called Jennifer Crumbley. She was their first witness. What did she have to say?

KLINEFELTER: She said she never saw those messages, that her son never requested any help with his mental health, and that she took any claims he made of seeing hallucinations as kind of a game he played.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JENNIFER CRUMBLEY: He would mess with us that things were going on in the house - silverware was flying across the room, doors were slamming. He actually took a video of the door and showed me - you can kind of see him slam it - of him trying to say, see, our house is haunted.

KLINEFELTER: In addition to saying she believed her son was just playing around, she said on the day of the shooting, she thought her husband had locked and hidden the gun away.

MARTIN: So, as we said earlier, Quinn, we don't often see a parent facing a charge like this, a felony, because of a mass shooting carried out by their child. Is there a precedent for this, or could this set one?

KLINEFELTER: Yeah. In fact, some legal experts say it may already have. William Swor practices criminal law here in Detroit. He says the mere fact that there's now a trial in this case means the door is open to charging parents with much more than a misdemeanor or civil penalties.

WILLIAM SWOR: Holding parents to criminal liability for what their children do is a big change. This is not the last time we will see this, and it will not be confined to cases where children kill other children.

MARTIN: So, Quinn, I understand that the argument from prosecutors says this happened in part because Jennifer Crumbley and her husband would not take their son home from school even after counselors showed them violent drawings he had made. What was Crumbley's response to that?

KLINEFELTER: She says she would have never refused to take her son home if he had wanted to go and that she and her husband were preparing to make calls to try to find counseling for him. She also claims school officials said that her son did not pose an immediate risk on the day of the shooting, that it was good for him to be around his peers at school rather than home alone while she and her husband were going back to work. She told her attorney she never thought her son could be a killer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CRUMBLEY: I've asked myself if I would've done anything differently, and I wouldn't have.

SHANNON SMITH: If you could change what happened, would you?

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

MARTIN: Do we expect to hear any more from Jennifer Crumbley?

KLINEFELTER: Yes. The prosecution is cross-examining Crumbley today.

MARTIN: That is Quinn Klinefelter with member station WDET. Thank you, Quinn.

KLINEFELTER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
Quinn Klinefelter