By David Howell
COFFEEVILLE – A jury took just over two hours last Wednesday afternoon to convict 33 year-old Jermaine Crump of murder in the 2012 brutal shooting of his sister-in-law, Crystal Crump. The defendant received a life sentence after the jury returned a verdict of murder by deliberate design and he will not be eligible for parole until he is 65. The trial lasted a grueling three days, with jury selection gobbling up much of the first day and setting the stage for an intense scene as the defendant repeatedly intervened against his attorney’s advice.
The trial came to a close around 6:15 Wednesday afternoon when the jury reentered the courtroom, not buying a self-defense theory after Crump testified that he had an ongoing feud with his sister-in-law that included threats from her in the months leading up to the shooting. On the day of the shooting he told the jurors that she came in his bedroom with a knife, prompting him to shoot her multiple times. Both Jermaine Crump and Crystal Crump lived in the same house on County Road 227, just outside Coffeeville, along with Crystal Crump’s husband and other family members.
Jermaine Crump’s testimony and state evidence showed the victim had multiple gunshot wounds to the back inflicted as she fled down the hall following some type of altercation. Jermaine Crump also testified that he shot her several times in the back of the head after she slumped to the floor.
“I just stood over her like a crazy man and kept on shooting. I was fixing to reload and shoot some more before I caught myself,” Crump told the jury before breaking down and sobbing.
“My actions are different from my subconscious,” Crump also told the jury as he repeatedly explained that he knew right from wrong. The defendant had spent much of the morning Wednesday testifying as the final witness for his defense before his attorney, Randolph Walker, rested.
“I don’t want to talk anymore,” Crump said after detailing the final moments of Crystal Crump’s life.”
This is your case, you need to tell it,” Walker responded. The defense attorney was clearly frustrated at times as his client steered away from his legal advice and insisted on contributing to his own defense.
The jury was seated at 9:13 Wednesday morning as Circuit Court Judge Smith Murphey quizzed the group, a daily routine asking if they had been exposed to any outside information about the case or had discussed the case among themselves.
“No,” was the answer in unison and Walker, the defense attorney, recalled David Earl Hoop to the stand.
Hoop testified that the victim had visited his mechanic shop the day she was killed to have her vehicle checked out.
“She had sugar in her gas tank,” Hoop told the jury. “She got on a cell phone, she was arguing and left there real mad.” Hoop testified that he learned later that day she had been shot.
Next to take the stand was the defendant, and Walker noted his client had insisted on taking the stand to testify in what turned out as another bizarre day in the trial.
“I have been lied on,” Jermaine Crump told the jurors.
His testimony started with routine matters as he answered questions about his background that included graduating from Coffeeville High School before attending two different universities and two colleges, earning almost 150 hours of college credit but no degree.
His lengthy narrative about intermittent college life included an account of his enrollment at the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, Rust College and Northwest Community College and a 2.97 GPA.
“Now I want to direct your attention to why we are here today,” Walker told Crump as the questioning shifted to the hours leading up to the shooting on November 2, 2012.
Crump told the jury that he got up around 10 a.m. and took his uncle to the hospital He was relieved around 3 p.m. and said he went home to get some sleep. As the line of questioning continued, Crump started to explain about a heated conversation he overheard between the victim and his mother that led him to fear for his life.
“Objection, hearsay,” Assistant District Attorney Steven Jubera said, standing before Judge Murphey and explaining that Crump was testifying about a conversation that he overheard.
“Sustained,” Murphey ruled.
“My story won’t make sense,” a deflated Jermaine Crump told the judge before slumping in silence for a short period.
Walker’s questioning continued as he asked Jermaine Crump about the events following the phone call.
“Did you have an altercation?” Walker asked.
“She was highly upset, mad, hitting stuff,” Jermaine Crump answered. He added that the victim took the kids inside their room across the hall from his room, before entering his room with a knife. He also said he had been diagnosed with a personality disorder which affected his judgment.
Unknown to jurors, Jermaine Crump had been deemed mentally competent to stand trial a week earlier in a competency hearing after experts from both the defense and prosecution testified.
“Have you ever heard the expression that sometimes somebody can make you angry that you can just snap?” Walker asked.
“That’s where the phycological factors come in,” Jermaine Crump answered, before detailing problems that he had experienced with his sister-in-law prior to the murder.
“She always came between me and my mom. I told her this ain’t none of her business, me and my mom had a lot of problems,” the defendant continued.
When asked for final comments before Walker finished his questioning, the defendant again stressed that he can’t think clearly on immediate tasks when under duress.
“I don’t think rationally, I have headaches. I am getting one now,” the defendant explained.
Jubera opened his comments with a question for the defendant.
“I need you to look at me so I know you are listening,” Jubera first instructed.
“I got a headache,” Jermaine Crump answered
“That’s okay. Because you don’t like someone and don’t agree with them doesn’t mean it is okay to disrespect them. Treating people with respect makes the world a nicer place to live. Whether it is at home, in school or out in your community. We all have our opinion, but with every opinion comes equal value. You have to give respect to receive respect,” Jubera said before Walker objected.
“Your honor, I am going to object. That’s a very long question. If he wants to ask a question, ask one,” Walker said.
“I am simply asking if he agrees with that statement or not,” Jubera explained before Murphey overruled the objection.
“Everybody needs to love one another. The second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as you want to be loved,” Jermaine Crump answered.
“Do recognize this statement, sir?” Jubera asked, explaining the defendant had posted the statement on his Facebook page months before the murder.
“Mr. Crump, the reason I am asking that is because I will treat you with respect and I am going to ask you to treat me with respect. Is that fair?” Jubera asked.
“You picked all the jurors. You are maliciously prosecuting me. And you talk about treating me with respect. But I am going to treat you with respect,” the defendant answered.
Jubera then launched a series of questions about the knife; the gun recovered from the crime scene that had been purchased by the defendant a week earlier; the bullets found in multiple places including the defendant’s bedroom, vehicle and on his person; and the gun shot power residue found on the gun and knife.
Each time the defendant admitted the facts were correct as described by the prosecutor.
Then Jubera questioned the defendant about the actual shooting, asking him to look at each photograph of Crystal showing the bullet wounds in her back and the back of her head, all fired from behind as Jubera stressed the defendant was trying to get away.
“You see it?” Jubera asked as he showed the photos to Jermaine Crump, creating the next disruption as the defendant refused to look at the pictures.
“Your honor, I would like the record to reflect that the defendant is not looking at those photographs,” defense attorney Walker interjected.
“The record will reflect the photographs were shown. From my angle, I am looking at the side of his head, I can’t tell whether are not his eyes are on the photographs,” Murphey said.
“I will repeat the question,” as Jubera put the photo directly in front of the defendant and asked if the wound was in her back.
“In her side,” the defendant answered.
“She was still running away, correct?” Jubera answered.
“No, at that point she had fallen over,” Jermaine Crump answered, before admitting that he had kept shooting after the victim was on the ground.
“You also told this jury you know the difference between right and wrong?” Jubera said.
“Not when I act. I don’t think, I react,” the defendant answered.
“You pulled that trigger three times in the back of her head, is that correct, sir?” Jubera continued.
I guess, I wasn’t thinking rationally,” Jermaine Crump answered.
Next Jubera showed him exhibit 20, a picture of the three bullet holes in the back of the victim’s head.
“You see it, you see it?” Jubera asked as the defendant again refused to look at the picture.
“You pulled the trigger that put those bullets in her head. Is that correct?” Jubera asked.
“I already admitted that,” Crump answered.
“If she was laying there on the ground, could she have harmed you?” Jubera asked.
“I just told you I have a mental disorder and I could not stop myself,” the defendant answered.
“You are familiar with what we refer to as the second greatest commandment, is that correct?” Jubera.
“Yes,” Jermaine Crump answered.
“Nothing further,” Jubera said.
The afternoon brought closing arguments from both sides before Murphey outlined the options in the jury’s instructions, murder by deliberate design, manslaughter or not guilty. The verdict delivered was the most serious charge.
Speaking after the trial, Sheriff Lance Humphreys told the Herald Jermaine Crump’s paperwork was expedited and the prisoner was transported to Rankin County on Thursday for processing into the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
“Reality is going to hit him and I would rather him be in MDOC’s custody when it hits him,” Humphreys explained. Crump had been isolated in the Yalobusha County Jail after being in multiple fights with inmates, starting with his original incarceration in neighboring Panola County.
“He assaulted two people in the Panola County jail, they asked me to come get him,” Humphreys said.
The murder trial was also first in the county in at least a decade, as neither Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney nor Humphreys recalled a murder trial during their tenure. Other murders in the county had been settled with plea agreements.