Court: Weekley judge can drop charge
Detroit —The Michigan Court of Appeals on Monday denied a motion by Wayne County prosecutors to appeal a judge's decision to throw out an involuntary manslaughter charge against Detroit police Officer Joseph Weekley.
Prosecutors said they filed an emergency motion for reconsideration with the appeals court on Monday afternoon.
Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a raid filmed by a cable TV crew in 2010 in which Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, was killed.
He also is charged with the misdemeanor careless discharge of a weapon, which has a maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and up to two years in prison, at the judge's discretion. Monday's decision means Weekley likely won't spend any time behind bars.
Weekley also faces a civil lawsuit by attorney Geoffrey Fieger alleging gross negligence.
His attorney, Steve Fishman, said in an email to The Detroit News the court's ruling was correct.
On Friday, Wayne Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway granted defense attorney Steve Fishman's request for a directed verdict, which meant throwing out the manslaughter charge, because she agreed with Fishman there was no intent by Weekley to put Aiyana in harm's way. The jury instructions say in order for them to find a defendant guilty of involuntary manslaughter, it must be proven he purposely put the victim in danger.
Prosecutors objected to Hathaway's decision, which she immediately stayed. They appealed the decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals, but the appellate court on Monday denied the appeal.
The U.S. Supreme Court last year ruled that once a judge grants a directed verdict, the decision cannot be appealed because it would constitute double jeopardy, meaning trying someone twice for the same crime, which is prohibited under the U.S. Constitution. The case, Evans v. Michigan, involved a Detroit man accused of arson.
In a filing Monday, prosecutors said that ruling didn't apply to the Weekley case because in the Evans case, the judge discharged the jury after rendering her decision, whereas Hathaway immediately stayed her ruling.
But the appellate court ruled that, once the judge made her ruling, it was final, regardless of whether she'd released the jury.
Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, who has acted as the family's spokesman, decried the decision.
"Surely, the death of a baby by a well-trained police force must be deemed unacceptable in a civilized society," Lawrence said. "Aiyana's family remains devastated, and this ruling ... does not help to ease their pain."
Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality director Ron Scott called the ruling "a travesty of justice."
"This gives people a bad taste in their mouth as to whether or not fairness can be rendered when police are charged with a crime," Scott said. "It gives the impression that a 7-year-old African-American child who was killed in the middle of the night can't get justice."
Detroit police officer Mark Diaz, president of the Detroit Police Officers Association union, said he was happy with the appellate court decision.
"A point that has to be recognized by everyone is, our officers are here with one purpose in mind: To protect the public," Diaz said. "When circumstances are presented where me must raid a home, it is a high-speed, dangerous situation."
Diaz pointed out in 2003, Weekley founded the "SWAT for Tots" program, which collects toys for homeless and abused children during the holidays. And just weeks before the raid, he was involved in a program called "Run With the Cops, Not From Them," which raised money for children with cancer.
"This is someone who absolutely loves children," Diaz said.
Weekley's first trial in June 2013 was declared a mistrial after a hung jury could not reach a verdict.
Weekley led the Detroit Police Special Response Team into Aiyana's home May 16, 2010, looking for a slaying suspect. He claims Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his gun, causing it to fire and kill the sleeping girl.
Prosecutors argue Weekley didn't use proper care for safety.