Jury deadlocks during 2nd trial for Detroit cop charged with assaulting mentally ill woman

Kara Berg
The Detroit News

Detroit — A jury was unable to come to a decision Wednesday in the trial of a Detroit police officer accused of assaulting a mentally ill woman in 2018 after taking her to the hospital, leading to a mistrial. 

This was the second trial for Cpl. Dewayne Jones, who is charged with misdemeanor assault and battery. Jones was convicted during his first trial, in May 2019, though the jury did initially say they were deadlocked, but Detroit's 36th District Court Judge Lynise Bryant granted him a new trial after determining his attorney was ineffective in a key part of his defense. 

Detroit Police Cpl. Dewayne Jones, with his attorney Pamella Szydlak, stands for his sentencing on a misdemeanor assault conviction in the courtroom of Judge Kenneth King at 36th District Court in Detroit in May 2019. Jones was granted a new trial after a judge determined Szydlak was ineffective during a key part of his defense.

After deliberating for less than a day, the jury foreperson sent a note to Bryant Wednesday morning that they were at a "stalemate." Bryant sent them back to deliberate further, but the foreperson returned with another note later Wednesday notifying her they were deadlocked. The jury sent three notes total about being deadlocked.

After the last note, the foreperson told Bryant that "based on conversations" the jury has had, he did not believe they would be able to come to a unanimous verdict. 

Bryant declared a mistrial. Wayne County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Maria Miller said prosecutors plan to move forward with the case for a third trial. 

Jones is accused of assaulting a woman who he and another police officer found naked in the middle of the street in mental distress, said Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Holman. 

Jurors had to decide if Jones' use of force was legitimate. If they believed the use of force was excessive, they could convict him of assault, Bryant said during jury instructions. The misdemeanor is punishable by 93 days in jail. 

Holman told jurors a story of a cop who "snapped" and started beating the woman in the hospital waiting room. 

But Jones' attorney, Margaret Raben, said Jones did as he was required to do as a police officer: he used the appropriate amount of force to get the woman under control.

Jones and another officer took the woman to a Detroit hospital, where she turned confrontational and started using "awful and vulgar" language to officers and hospital staff as they try to get her checked in, Holman said. 

At this point, Raben said, "Cpl. Jones is nothing but gentle, professional and concerned about her."

The woman's verbal abuse became physical, both Holman and Raben said. Jones told her to sit down, and she refused, Raben said. She became more physically aggressive, standing with her fists up. She spit on hospital staff and bit one of the hospital security officers who tried to restrain her. 

At that point, Raben said, Jones knew she was a danger to everyone and needed to be controlled. Jones used the appropriate force to restrain the woman, Raben said, and even if it may have looked like "wild punching" to the uninformed, he used a technique he was taught during training. 

"We don’t like the look of what we saw. I got that," Raben said. "But that does not make it unnecessary and that does not make it excessive. ... The only thing that could be done to put an end to this was a hand strike." 

It's unclear how many times Jones hit the woman, Holman said. The blows came too quickly to tell. But he hit the back of her head, the back of her shoulders; he hit her in the back when she was nearly restrained, he said. 

"He did not have a reason to strike (the woman) in the way that he did," Holman said during the trial. "This is not something a reasonable officer in his position would do."

The woman did not testify because she is currently having similar mental health problems, Holman said. 

"Evidence will show she did not represent a significant threat to the defendant," Holman said. "Officer Dewayne Jones could've done everything right up to this point … but he did something wrong here, in these 20-30 seconds, by striking her the amount of times that he did, by striking her the way he did. ... This is not a legitimate use of force and this is where the crime occurred."

Jones was originally charged with felony misconduct in office, but 36th District Court Judge Cylenthia Miller dismissed the charge in January 2019.