By Kate Abbey-Lambertz
The Huffington Post (12/6/14)
The dismissal of the manslaughter charge against a Detroit police officer who fatally shot a sleeping child will stand, an appeals court ruled Monday.
Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley has been on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, who was killed during a police raid in 2010. On Friday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway granted a motion filed by Weekley’s attorney to dismiss the felony charge. The trial was halted while the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed an emergency appeal of the judge’s ruling. But the court denied the appeal Monday.
Presiding Judge Michael Talbot issued the order, saying that the appeals court was not able to review the decision because the trial court had granted the defense’s motion to drop the manslaughter charge orally and in a written order before there was an appellate review.
“Although I find that the trial court erred in form and substance in granting defendant’s motion for directed verdict, we are barred from reviewing that decision,” Talbot wrote.
The prosecution has filed an emergency motion for reconsideration with the appeals court.
Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Committee, issued a statement Monday following the court’s decision.
“Surely, the death of a baby by a well-trained police force must be deemed unacceptable in a civilized society,” Lawrence said.
Steve Fishman, Weekley’s attorney, said in court Friday that the prosecution had not presented evidence that could lead a jury to find his client guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
“There is absolutely no evidence, none, that’s in the least bit credible, that Officer Weekley knowingly created a danger or, more importantly, intended to cause injury,” Fishman said.
A little after midnight on May 16, 2010, a special police team conducting a raid in search of a murder suspect entered the Stanley-Jones home on Detroit’s east side. Weekley was first through the door, a role he had previously taken on in about 100 raids. As a crew filmed for a reality show about murder investigations, another officer is said to have thrown a flash-bang grenade, temporarily blinding Weekley. Shortly after, Weekley fired the shot that killed Aiyana, who was sleeping on the couch in the front room at the time.
The girl’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, was on the couch with her, and Weekley has maintained that she struck his gun, causing him to shoot Aiyana. Jones testified that she did not touch the gun.
The prosecution sought to show that Weekley was acting improperly and in violation of training by keeping his finger on the trigger of his submachine gun.
“He could have avoided injury if he had followed his training,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said in court Friday. “He didn’t, and as a result of him not following his training and not following the mandates of ordinary care, someone was killed.”
Weekley still faces the misdemeanor charge of careless discharge of a firearm causing death. He was first tried for involuntary manslaughter last year, when a hung jury caused a mistrial.