Weekley may seek retrial over tirade by witness

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The lawyer for the officer accused in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl during a police raid is considering asking for a mistrial after a lengthy outburst in court Wednesday by the girl's grandmother.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones' grandmother broke into hysterics on the witness stand and had to be escorted from the courtroom before Wayne Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray-Hathaway temporarily recessed proceedings.

"Why? Why you do it? Please tell me," Mertilla Jones wailed at Officer Joseph Weekley, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter after he shot Aiyana during a May 2010 raid that was being filmed for television show.

Mertilla Jones’ court outburst stopped a Wayne County trial.

"Tell me why you came in my house like that? You killed my grandbaby."

As Jones was led from the witness stand, Jones told Weekley: "You know I never touched you, Mr. Weekley. She was only 7 years old. She was only a baby.

"Why y'all do this to me? I get no sleep. I'm sick as hell. I get flashbacks; I wouldn't wish them on nobody in the world — not even you."

Weekley's lawyer, Steve Fishman, said he's "never seen anything like it in almost 41 years as a trial lawyer."

As a result, he said, asking for a mistrial "is under serious consideration."

Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, said, "any concerns will be addressed in court regarding that issue."

University of Michigan law professor David A. Moran said Jones' outburst could be grounds for a second mistrial for Weekley. His first trial in June 2013 was declared a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a verdict.

"Anything that happens in front of a jury that's prejudicial to the jury is absolutely grounds for a mistrial," Moran said. "I would expect the defense to file a motion for a mistrial, although that doesn't mean the judge has to grant it."

Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekly seen during his trial on last week.

Judge may check influence

Moran said Hathaway may talk to jurors individually or as a group to see if they were affected by the emotional accusations against the defendant.

"She may even want to get statements on the record that they weren't affected," Moran said. "If jurors say they just can't get that out of their minds, the judge would have no choice but to grant a mistrial. And even if she does deny a motion for mistrial, if (Weekley) is found guilty, it's certainly grounds for an appeal."

After Jones was escorted by deputies into the witness room next to the courtroom, Hathaway reminded jurors they aren't to decide the case based on sympathy, but must instead look at the evidence presented during the trial. During her instructions, Jones could still be heard wailing.

Weekley sat upright in his seat in Wayne Circuit Court during the tirade and showed no signs of emotion.

Onlookers in the courtroom, including Aiyana's relatives, also sobbed and rushed from the room.

Weekley claims Jones, 51, slapped at his machine gun as he entered the home on Lillibridge looking for Chauncey Owens, who two days earlier killed 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake outside a party store. Owens and Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, have been convicted of the killing. Mertilla Jones is the mother of Charles Jones.

The raid was filmed by a crew from the television cable show "First 48." Homicide detectives testified Monday top police officials made the decision to allow the crew to accompany the Detroit Police Special Response Team on the raid.

Outburst was trial's second

Jones' outburst was the second during the proceedings.

Earlier, LaKrystal Sanders, Aiyana's aunt and Owens' girlfriend, yelled at Weekley's attorney, Steve Fishman, as he asked her whether her mother, Mertilla Jones, was on the couch with Aiyana when police entered the home, or on the floor. Sanders claimed someone altered the transcript of her grand jury testimony, taking out the passage where she said her mother rolled onto the floor as police came in.

"You keep asking me the same questions over and over," she said to Fishman, her voice cracking. Then she looked at Weekley: "That man killed my niece. She's gone."

The judge told Sanders she wasn't being respectful, and ordered a break.

After the break, Hathaway warned those in the courtroom against similar outbursts.

"I'm convinced as the judge in this case, that there's nobody in this courtroom who doesn't feel bad about this entire situation," she said. "I'm patient about a lot of things; there's one thing I'm not patient about, and that's making a bad situation worse.

"To the witness and everyone else: If you do anything that makes this trial worse than it already is ... pass the word on: I will not hesitate to have someone detained if we get out of order," Hathaway said.

The trial is on recess until Monday.

Jones testified during the first trial that Weekley and his squad, the Special Response Team, were out to kill someone, and Weekley put his gun to Aiyana's head and shot her execution-style. She reiterated that during her testimony Wednesday, before breaking down.


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