Dad of Aiyana Stanley-Jones gets new trial on murder conviction
Charles Damon Jones, the father of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, the child killed by a Detroit police officer during a raid on her family's east-side home nine years ago, is getting a new trial on his second-degree murder conviction.
A pretrial hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court for Jones, 34, who was convicted five years ago of second-degree murder and perjury in the slaying of a Detroit teen that allegedly triggered events leading to his daughter's death.
Jones' defense attorney, Leon Weiss, told The Detroit News that his client has always maintained his innocence in the May 14, 2010, slaying of 17-year-old Je'rean Blake outside an east-side party store.
Weiss said he is discussing a possible plea deal with the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office that could result in his client getting less time behind bars. Jones has already served five years of his 10-20-year sentence on a conviction of perjury during a court proceeding.
Weiss said the deal could involve a no-contest plea and could include a request to allow Jones to serve his sentences for perjury and a possible new conviction on the tossed second-degree murder count concurrently.
Jones faced 40-60 years in prison before the Appeals Court granted him a new trial on the murder conviction.
"Charles testified he didn't have anything to do with (Blake's murder)," said Weiss. "He didn't ride up to the party store."
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled two years ago that Jones was entitled to another trial because the judge who presided over the trial did not adequately answer jurors' questions regarding Jones' case during jury deliberations.
Authorities say Jones aided and abetted Chauncey Louis Owens, who was convicted of shooting Blake outside the party store, by giving him the gun used in the killing.
Witnesses testified during the trial that Owens came back to the store after a previous brief encounter with Blake and shot the teen to death.
Jones was convicted of the murder charge because he was tried alongside Owens, said Weiss.
"The jury hated (Owens)," Jones' attorney said. "He killed (Blake) in cold blood."
Blake's mother, Lyvonne Cargill, declined to comment on the new developments in the case.
Two days after Blake's slaying, police raided Jones' home looking for him in connection with the death. During the operation, Aiyana was shot to death by Officer Joseph Weekley, who was part of the Detroit Police Department Special Response Team.
Weekley said that seconds after entering the home, Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his MP-5 sub-machine gun, causing it to fire a bullet that killed Aiyana, who had been sleeping on a couch in the living room with her grandmother.
Weekley's first two trials on involuntary manslaughter charges ended in mistrials; a judge dismissed the charge before a third trial could begin in January 2015.
Weiss said the jury acquitted Jones of weapons charges but found him guilty of second-degree murder.
"How can you find him innocent of possessing a firearm but guilty of second-degree murder? It was a contradictory verdict," Jones' attorney said.
Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning, who is a former federal prosecutor, said a flaw in a conviction is the "most common basis" for a reversal.
"Appeals courts do not generally assess the credibility of witnesses, but a legal flaw in the instructions can lead to a reversal," said Henning. "Also, failing to adequately respond to the jury’s questions is often the equivalent of a flawed jury instruction because it can mislead the jury and result in a verdict that is based on the improper instruction."
The Michigan Supreme Court denied the Wayne County prosecutor's appeal of the 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals, and the pretrial hearing was set last month.
In April, the family of Aiyanaagreed to an $8.25 million settlement with the city of Detroit over the death. The settlement came days before a civil trial was set to begin in Wayne County Circuit Court.