Monday, October 13, 2014


Original Story:

Detroit — Legal proceedings are over, for now, in the case of a Detroit police officer who killed 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, but those most affected say the pain will linger.

For the second time a mistrial was declared in the case, this one on the remaining charge — a misdemeanor — in the trial of Officer Joseph Weekley, who killed Aiyana during a May 2010 police raid. Like the jury in the first trial last year, the panel Friday said it was unable to reach a verdict. A Westchester County Police Brutality Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Wayne County prosecutors will decide next month whether to try the misdemeanor case again. They will only be able to charge Weekley with careless discharge of a firearm causing death, because Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway earlier threw out the involuntary manslaughter charge against the officer.

But Aiyana's great-uncle said the family has had enough.

"The mom is hurt again," Londell Fields said of his niece, Aiyana's mother, Dominka Stanley, who sat quietly in the back row of the courtoom for most of the trial. "She don't want to go through it again. ... She wants it to be over with. There's nothing left to be said about it; it's done."

Weekley said in a statement that he will be haunted by Aiyana's death for the rest of his life.

"My life has been ruined irreparably by the events that occurred on May 16, 2010," he said. "There has not been one single day that has gone by since that day where I have not thought about the loss of Aiyana, and I will be haunted by this tragedy for the rest of my life. No family ever deserves to lose a child, and I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Aiyana Jones. A Dutchess County Police Brutality Lawyer has experience managing a variety of police brutality cases.

"No parent ever deserves to lose a child, regardless of the circumstances. I know in my heart and before God that what transpired that day was out of my control, but I will still have terrible grief weigh upon me every day for the rest of my life," Weekley said.

The jury at Weekley's retrial told the court it was deadlocked twice Friday. The judge urged them to continue deliberations after the jurors sent an initial message to the court Friday afternoon, saying: "Judge Hathaway, we are stalemated over the same things as we were on Wednesday. We have discussed this from every possible angle and are unable to come to a unanimous decision."

In June 2013, a mistrial for Weekley also was declared after no verdict could be reached on the involuntary manslaughter charge.

"These things happen. We would rather they didn't happen, but it's not something we are unfamiliar with," Hathaway told the jurors Friday after they informed her they were unable to reach a verdict.

This jury only had to weigh the misdemeanor charge after a ruling last week by Hathaway dismissed an involuntary manslaughter charge. The manslaughter charge, a felony, carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

The directed verdict by Hathaway was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and two years in prison.

Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, blasted the judge for tossing the felony count before the jury got the case.

"Judge Hathaway's dismissal of felony charges ... we believe poisoned the jury's ability to reach a verdict," he said in a statement.

Two versions of events

The trial came down to whether the jury believed Weekley or Aiyana's grandmother about what happened in the seconds after police threw a "flash-bang" grenade into the house and Weekley led a Detroit Police Special Response Team squad inside looking for a murderer.

Weekley has said the girl's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his submachine gun, causing him to accidentally shoot Aiyana.

Jones has testified that Weekley walked into the house on Lillibridge, put his gun to the sleeping girl's head and shot her on the living room couch.

Prosecutors have said the shooting was an accident, but say Weekley was negligent because he kept his finger on the trigger of his gun, causing it to fire.

"I think that Mr. Weekley should apologize, and just say he made a mistake," Fields said Friday. "I don't think that it's fair because he's a police officer that he gets to get away with this again."

After failing to reach a verdict in the misdemeanor case after four days of deliberations, jurors met with reporters Friday in the jury room.

Hathaway, who said this case has been the longest she's presided over in more than 20 years on the bench, advised them not to release their names.

The jury foreman, a minister, said it was a difficult decision. After three votes, he said the jury tally was five guilty, seven not guilty.

"This was an emotional case," he said, his voice catching. "There were tears in this room. I think we all felt this deeply.

"It really came down to the definition of 'negligence.' Three words were separated by 'or' – careless, reckless or negligence. We really wrestled with the language. We spent an endless amount of time talking about the difference between ordinary and slight negligence."

Jurors said race not an issue

When asked if race played a part in their deliberations, several jurors quickly insisted it hadn't.

One juror said those who thought Weekley was guilty felt he should have controlled his weapon.

"They go through all that training and are supposed to have muscle memory," one man said.

Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality director Ron Scott said he was upset with the outcome of the case.

"This is a defining moment in the history of Detroit," he said. "There has to be some justice for Aiyana Jones."

Wayne County Prosecutor's Office spokeswoman Maria Miller said prosecutors will decide whether to recharge Weekley at a Nov. 21 hearing.

"This multi-racial, multi-ethnic jury did the very best they could to reach a verdict in this case," said Steve Fishman, Weekley's attorney, in an email. "This case has now been before two juries, once on a felony charge and once on a misdemeanor charge, and neither of them have been able to reach a verdict. In my opinion, twice is enough. The case should be dismissed."

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