All Charges Dropped Against White Cop Who Shot A Black 7-Year-Old In Her Sleep
Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley, who shot 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones in her sleep during a raid on her home in 2010, will not face any charges surrounding her death. Weekley was initially charged with involuntary manslaughter (a felony) and careless discharge of a firearm causing death (a misdemeanor) in connection to Aiyana’s death in 2011, and his first trial in 2013 resulted in a hung jury. A retrial began in September 2014, and Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, who presided over the case, eventually dropped the involuntary manslaughter charge, citing a lack of evidence. The incident ultimately ended with another hung jury. This morning, the case was officially dismissed in Detroit’s Wayne County Circuit Court. Weekley will not face a third trial, and Aiyana’s family will likely never find closure or justice for their loss.
On the night of Aiyana’s death in 2010, police raided her home around midnight in search of a murder suspect wanted for the shooting of a teenager on Detroit’s east side. The police were accompanied by a camera crew filming for the A&E show “The First 48,” which may have impacted the cops’ behavior. To distract the the house’s residents, the cops fired a flash grenade through the front window — a tactic that is almost never used in this type of case. Aiyana was sleeping on a couch in the front room of the house’s first floor. The murder suspect the cops had been searching for, who was the boyfriend of Aiyana’s aunt, was in the apartment on the second floor of the house, but the police were focusing on the first floor instead, perhaps mistakenly. When they finally got to apprehending the suspect, he surrendered, but not before Aiyana got caught in the crossfire.
This point in the story is when, as we’ve seen play out many times in recent history, the police’s story greatly differs from what the house’s residents and local witnesses saw. Detroit police claim Weekley, a member of the Detroit SWAT team, was the first one to enter the home, and that he pushed his way inside protected by a shield. At one time, the police’s story insisted Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, attempted to grab Weekley’s gun and caused it to fire and kill the sleeping girl. The facts varied, with the department and Weekley seemed unable to make up their mind about whether Jones actually got her hands on the gun, simply tried to grab it, or “brushed” the gun while running past the door.
Jones, on the other hand, says that when the grenade came through her window, she was on the couch away from the door, and reached for her granddaughter, not the gun. She says she had no physical contact with Weekley. Her lawyer said the bullet that hit Aiyana was fired from outside the house, potentially through the front door once it was opened. Jones was arrested that night, tested for drugs and gunpowder, and released the following day. Her fingerprints were not found on Weekley’s gun, but for some ridiculous reason that was not considered worthy cause to take her story more seriously.
Wayne Country Prosecutor Kym Worthy told the Detroit News that the judge’s decision to dismiss the felony manslaughter charge against Weekley in his retrial is “unfortunate,” as her decision cannot legally be appealed and the remaining misdemeanor against him is now dropped. Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz told the News that the case’s dismissal is “great news,” because “the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is having a difficult time finding the resources to prosecute murderers and rapists, so to try (Weekley) for a third time would obviously be a waste of money they don’t have.” Hmm, except for the part where what happened to Aiyana was arguably murder and that not bothering to thoroughly determine who is responsible for a small child’s death just because nobody feels like spending the money doesn’t exactly live up to the “blind Justice” ideal that Americans are (falsely, it seems) told they can count on.
Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, felt that Hathaway “abused her authority by dismissing felony charges against Joe Weekley before the jury had a chance to deliberate,” and it’s hard to disagree. When Hathaway and lawyers were choosing the jury for Weekly’s second trial, candidates were asked about race and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. The jurors selected reportedly agreed that race was “irrelevant” in Aiyana’s case, which is nothing short of mindblowing.
Jones cried Wednesday as she received the news of the case’s dismissal. Ron Scott, a spokesman for Aiyana’s family and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, says Jones “thinks the system has failed her.” How could she not!? “She feels it’s unfair and he’s getting away with murder and can go back to his job.” Scott intends to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to consider federal civil rights charges against the members of the Detroit Police Department responsible for the raid. According to a Detroit police detective, the choice to order the SWAT team to raid the home in the middle of the night as opposed to the less-risky morning hours was strange (and perhaps poor) decision on the part of other department members.
Weekley issued a statement in October at the time of the second trial, part of which said, “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.” He’s been hanging out on paid leave from the police department since he was first charged in March 2011. Does any of this story sound hauntingly familiar? This unjust dynamic between police and those they’re tasked with protecting is playing out every day all over the US, and it’s hard not to feel more and more desperate and frustrated as it continues to happen. How many more children have to die before white men are held accountable for their actions? In a statement, Scott said, “This episode, given what is happening nationally in terms of police-community relations, sets us back decades. We will continue the fight for justice for Aiyana … since she is not here to fight for herself.”