Sobbing mom recounts night daughter killed in cop raid
Detroit — Dominika Stanley sobbed on the witness stand Thursday as she recounted the night her daughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed.
During the first day of testimony in the re-trial of Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley, who shot the 7-year-old Aiyana during a May 2010 raid, Stanley testified that her daughter was sleeping with her in a back bedroom but at some point during the night the girl went to the living room to join her grandmother on the couch.
Shortly after midnight, Stanley said she heard commotion coming from the front of the house. Then, she said, came a scream from Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones.
"She said, 'They killed Aiyana.' I just knew I couldn't be hearing that," Stanley said.
At one point during her emotional testimony, Stanley asked for a short break. She was escorted into a witness room that adjoins the courtroom, where she could be heard crying.
On May 16, 2010, Weekley led a Special Response Team unit into a home on the city's east side searching for Chauncey Owens, who was being sought in the killing of 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake, reportedly because he didn't like the way he looked at him. Owens and Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, who gave Owens the murder weapon, have been convicted of the killing.
"There's a lot of noise in this case," Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said in his 32-minute opening statement. "Media, finger-pointing. But it comes down to one simple thing: Was the defendant grossly negligent when he pulled the trigger on this gun.
"It comes down to the fact that you have to use ordinary care in your duties," Moran said "He didn't do that. If he had followed his training, this wouldn't have happened. Aiyana would still be alive. Him pulling the trigger means he didn't use ordinary care. He shouldn't have had his finger on the trigger. That's why we're here."
Weekley and Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, are the only survivors who were in the living room when Aiyana was killed. Weekley claims Jones slapped his gun downward, causing it to fire and kill Aiyana, who was sleeping on the couch. Jones contended during the first trial that Weekley entered the house intending to kill someone.
Weekley's attorney Steve Fishman called that "A big lie."
"When you hear a lie that's that outrageous, that should tell you you shouldn't trust anything she says," Fishman said during his 21-minute opening statement. "Why would she tell that lie? Mr. Moran knows he didn't intentionally kill her. Why is she doing that? Why is she telling that lie?
"Because you'll hear from testimony that she doesn't like the police," Fishman said. "Her son has been convicted by Mr. Moran. She has another son that's doing life in prison. She's going to tell you not just officer Weekley; the police came to kill. She's testified that. They didn't come to arrest Chauncey Owens or anyone; they came to kill them as he walked into a party store. Owens and Jones have since been convicted of the crime."
Fishman said Jones also is motivated by money, because she's suing the city. "The worse the police look, the more money is possible."
Stanley testified that a few days after the shooting, Jones told her at a lawyer's office she hadn't seen Aiyana get killed.
Fishman told the jury Jones told other "smaller lies" that include her testimony during the first trial that she'd never been in her backyard, where police found several shell casings; and that she didn't know there were guns kept in the house.
Also testifying Thursday was Wayne County Medical Examiner Dr. Carl Schmidt, who said Aiyana was not shot at close range.
Retired Detroit Police homicide Officer LaTonya Brooks also took the stand Thursday. She discussed the investigation into the Blake shooting, and the events leading up to obtaining a warrant to search Aiyana's home for Owens.
Brooks said citizen tips through Crime Stoppers of Michigan, and a relative of the Jones family identified Owens as Blake's killer.
Judge Hathaway abruptly halted the proceedings during Brooks' testimony and chided two television stations, Fox 2 and WDIV-Channel 4, for violating her written order that microphones were to be turned off during breaks. The microphones also picked up whispers between Fishman and Weekley both during breaks and during the trial.
Hathaway reminded the stations about her order.
"Whoever caused the problem will have to get a lawyer to come and get you out of jail," she said. "(I will impose) a hefty fine; (order the) detention of whoever is responsible; and you'll be excluded from the rest of this trial. We shouldn't have to do this."
After the judge's warning, Brooks continued testifying, and Moran played a video of the raid that was filmed from the outside of the house by the television crew.
On the video, someone is heard asking if there were any children at the raid location, and Brooks responded "not that I know of."
Fishman said that's an important detail, because police would have taken extra precautions if there were children known to be present.
Shortly after police entered the home, Brooks said a man yelled "they shot Aiyana."
Then Brooks said she embraced a "family member I had prior contact with."
"She's upset and she's grabbing on my arm," Brooks said.
A few minutes after Aiyana was carried out, Brooks went into the house. Soon, investigators from Internal Affairs and "the bosses" at the Detroit Police Department came to the house.