Judge cites 'justice' in dropping charge against cop
Detroit — The last charge against Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley in the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a 2010 police raid was dismissed Friday, garnering praise from some and criticism from others.
"After two trials, it is our opinion that in the interest of justice, it's best not to move forward," assistant prosecutor Robert Moran said.
Weekley's first trial ended in a hung jury and his second in a mistrial. After a judge dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge during his second trial, Weekley faced only a misdemeanor count of careless discharge causing injury or death.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Thursday the misdemeanor count was being dropped. Friday's hearing was in Wayne Circuit Court.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway said the case was difficult for several reasons.
"This was a tough case, not only because one child lost her life but the genesis of this case was that another child lost his life," Hathaway said, a reference to Je'Rean Blake, the 17-year-old high school student who was killed by a friend of the Jones family, Chauncey Owens, the day before Aiyana died.
Owens and Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, were convicted of killing Blake because Owens reportedly didn't like the way the teen had looked at him.
"In the space of 24 hours, we lost two children," Hathaway said. "It's important to recognize that all young people deserve to become adults."
Hathaway said she was upset the media didn't focus enough attention on Blake, adding: "With all this violence that takes place in our city, there ought to not be just a few people, but thousands of people in front of this building protesting."
Aiyana was asleep on a sofa when police raided her family's home May 16, 2010, looking for Owens. The nighttime raid was being filmed by camera crews for the cable TV show "The First 48."
Weekley led the Detroit Police Special Response Team into the residence on Lillibridge on the city's east side. Seconds after entering the home, he said the girl's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, slapped at his gun, causing it to fire and kill Aiyana.
The officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a weapon, a misdemeanor. After the felony charge was dropped in Weekley's October trial the jury was hung on the misdemeanor count, resulting in a second mistrial.
"I commend (Worthy) for making a courageous decision," Weekley's attorney, Steve Fishman, said Friday.
Hathaway commended Fishman, Moran and assistant prosecutor Mark Hindelang for being respectful during the trial, and added: "If someone needs a scapegoat for what's happened here today — and what happened here today is justice — then put it on me."
After the brief hearing, Ron Scott, chairman of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and a spokesman for Aiyana's family, said he was "livid" at Hathaway's remarks.
"She's a liar," he said, referring to her claim the media didn't pay attention to Blake's killing. "She was just feeling bad because she dismissed (the manslaughter charge against Weekley). Why didn't she reveal that she's married to a police officer? She should have recused herself from this case."
Scott added he will try to prompt federal officials to bring charges against Weekley.
"The family is totally distressed," he said. "Aiyana's mother can barely speak. The grandmother, who had a child die in her arms, is not doing well. This judge has some audacity; what if this was her 7-year-old girl who had been killed?"
Geoffrey Feiger, who is representing the family in a civil lawsuit against the city, said he will proceed with that case.
"We were on stay pending the outcome of the criminal trail," Feiger said. "The stay will now be lifted and we will now proceed with the civil case."
In his only public statement since Aiyana died, after Hathaway drop the manslaughter charge and before the hung jury was announced on the misdemeanor charge, Weekley said in a text message that the incident has taken a toll on him, as well.
"No matter the outcome of any jury's decision, I have already been devastated and my life has been ruined irreparably by the events that occurred on May 16, 2010," said Weekley. He was well-known in the police department before Aiyana's death for raising money for children's charities, including the SWAT for Tots program that gave toys to underprivileged kids.
"There has not been one single day that has gone by since that day where I have not thought about the loss of Aiyana, and I will be haunted by this tragedy for the rest of my life. No family ever deserves to lose a child, and I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Aiyana Jones.
"No parent ever deserves to lose a child, regardless of the circumstances. I know in my heart and before God that what transpired that day was out of my control, but I will still have terrible grief weigh upon me every day for the rest of my life."