Weekley jury ends deliberations for the day

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Someone is lying about what happened in the seconds leading up to the shooting death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones by Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley, according to a prosecutor and Weekley's attorney.

Jurors began deliberations Tuesday afternoon to determine which side they believe, although due to a ruling by Wayne Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray-Hathaway, which was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the panel will only weigh a misdemeanor charge of careless discharge of a weapon causing death.

The jury ended its day at 2 p.m. and is expected to continue deliberations Wednesday.

The misdemeanor charge carries maximum penalty of a $2,000 fine and up to two years in prison. The dismissed involuntary manslaughter charge carried a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Weekley, who killed Aiyana when he entered her home during a May 2010 raid that was being filmed for television, claims the girl's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his submachine gun, causing him to accidentally shoot Aiyana.

Jones has testified that Weekley walked into the house on Lillibridge, put his gun to the sleeping girl's head, and shot her execution-style. The officer's attorney, Steve Fishman, insisted Jones was not telling the truth.

"The question has to become, 'Why is she lying?' " Fishman said during his closing argument Tuesday. "I say there's good reason. Because she knows what she did. Mertilla Jones jumped up … and made contact with the gun."

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran in his rebuttal argument said the claim that Jones hit Weekley's weapon is untrue.

"What Officer Weekley said is a lie," Moran said. "He lied about what he said Mertilla Jones did. No one saw that.

"The most compelling reason why we know the defendant isn't lying? What would have happened if she'd grabbed the gun? Think about what would've happened to the person who did that," Moran said. "Would he say 'please don't do that again?'

"If she would've tried to take away his gun, he would've stopped and arrested her. Seriously? He wants you to believe that's what happened? It didn't happen."

The jury then heard instructions from Hathaway who declined earlier Tuesday to grant the prosecutors' request that she change her decision to drop the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley.

"We don't have a legal system where the prosecution has one theory, but laypeople come in and present a different theory," she said, referring to Jones' testimony that Weekley purposely killed Aiyana.

Gray-Hathaway added: "There's no evidence that the defendant made a choice to act or not act in disregard to others."

The jury will only decide whether Weekley is guilty of the misdemeanor charge after Hathaway on Friday granted a motion by Fishman for a directed verdict on the manslaughter charge on the grounds that jury instructions say in order to find him guilty, prosecutors must prove he willfully put Aiyana's life in danger.

Prosecutors stipulate the shooting was an accident, but say Weekley was negligent because he kept his finger on the trigger of his gun, causing it to fire.

"Had he followed his training, we wouldn't be here," Moran said. "There's a lot of noise in this case. And there's a lot of finger-pointing, too. This case is not about finger-pointing. It's about finger placement."

Fishman said training alone does not prepare officers for the unexpected.

"The training can only take you so far," Fishman said. "(Police) don't know what's on the other side of the door."

Then Fishman, an avid Detroit Tigers fan, added: "Ballplayers train. If training was everything, (Tiger first baseman Miguel) Cabrera would bat 1.000."

Since Hathaway granted the directed verdict Friday, there have been several appeals. She stayed her original decision to allow prosecutors to file an emergency appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The appellate court ruled because the judge had already orally made her ruling, the matter was out of its hands, per a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that said directed verdicts cannot be appealed because to find the defendant guilty again could constitute double jeopardy.

Prosecutors filed a second appeal to the appellate court, which was denied. Then, on Tuesday morning, Moran filed a motion asking Hathaway to reconsider her decision on the directed verdict. The motion was denied.

After reading the jury instructions, Hathaway dismissed two alternates, both women: Jurors No. 5 and No. 10.

When the jurors last week were questioned individually about whether they had been influenced by an outbreak on the witness stand by Jones, in which she wailed and accused Weekley of lying, Juror No. 5 said she felt Aiyana's family was being questioned more aggressively than police officers who testified.

Weekley's first trial in June 2013 ended with a hung jury.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

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