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No closure for slain child’s family

By Diane Bukowski Contributing Writer | Last updated: Dec 18, 2012 - 9:57:53 AM

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Judge again delays trial of officer accused in fatal shooting

DETROIT ( - Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ mother, grandmother, grandfather and aunt sat directly behind a stone-faced Joseph Weekley, the Detroit police officer who shot the sleeping seven-year-old child to death May 16, 2010, prior to another in a seemingly unending series of court hearings.

Aiyana Jones

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway postponed delivering her decision on a defense motion to dismiss charges of “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless use of a firearm” against Mr. Weekley until next March and set a trial date for April 8, 2013. Mr. Weekley, who was not charged until Oct. 14, 2011, was originally to have been tried last April.

“This is not fair to us, and it’s not fair to Aiyana,” the child’s maternal grandfather Jimmie Stanley said before the Nov. 20 hearing. “They’re treating us like we’re nothing. They think all we want is money from a lawsuit, but it’s not about money, it’s about closure. I miss Aiyana like crazy. Friends from all over the country keep calling to find out how we’re doing.”

The Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct states in Canon 3, section A 5, “A judge should dispose promptly of the business of the court.”

Judge Hathaway has repeatedly postponed Mr. Weekley’s trial, agreeing in open court with the prosecution and defense that Mr. Weekley should not be tried until after Aiyana’s father Charles Jones is tried on first-degree murder charges brought against him 17 months after Aiyana’s killing, in the death of Je’Rean Blake.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt, who is handling that case, earlier barred the testimony of jailhouse snitch Jay Schlenkerman against Mr. Jones. His trial has been postponed since an Appeals Court ruling overturned that decision, and the parties await a Supreme Court ruling on the matter.

Judge Hathaway also indefinitely delayed a demonstration of the use of a “flash-bang” grenade like the one thrown through the window over Aiyana seconds before her death, due to insufficient notice. The gruesome re-enactment had been set for Nov. 30, the date of the hearing, at an undisclosed address on Detroit’s impoverished East Side, to assist Judge Hathaway in considering the defense motion to dismiss. The defense contends among other issues that Mr. Weekley was disoriented by the explosion when he entered the home.

“I’ve watched the programs on TV where they train these cops,” Aiyana’s paternal grandmother Mertilla Jones said. “They train them how to stay oriented while the grenade goes off. The ‘First 48’ calls Weekley ‘The Brain’ because he’s always the first to go in.”

The grandmother was sleeping on the couch with Aiyana when Off. Weekley burst in and shot the little girl through the top of her head. She said the grenade had already gone off and that Off. Weekley did not appear disoriented. She herself was held by police for several days on claims that she “interfered” with Off. Weekley, causing his gun to go off.

The A&E reality cop show “The First 48,” which featured Off. Weekley as a star, filmed the May 16, 2010 raid on Aiyana’s home. Re-runs of his shows are still playing on the A&E Channel through Blockbuster Home.

Aiyana’s supporters say the proposed “flash-bang” demonstration diverts attention away from the question of why the flash-bang and a military-style raid were used in the first place, at a home full of toddlers whose toys were strewn all over the yard. Her family said they want not only Mr. Weekley, but everyone involved in the raid and the police chain of command which ordered it, charged and tried in the child’s death.

Aiyana’s mother Dominika Stanley and her aunt LaKrystal Sanders were also present during the Nov. 30 hearing.

Distressed family members said Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran, who is prosecuting both Off. Weekley and Mr. Jones in what the prosecutor’s office denies is a conflict of interest, has not spoken with them once about the case against Off. Weekley. They said the Office of Victim’s Rights has not been in touch either, to notify them of hearings or other information.

“There is nothing that would ethically preclude him from handling these two cases; there is no conflict of interest,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s chief of communications Maria Miller said in an e-mail response to a reporter’s inquiry. “They are two separate cases. I spoke to Mr. Moran and he indicated that he has not called Jones a companion case; it was the judge who used this language about the Jones case.”

At a previous hearing, prosecutor Moran called the Jones case a “companion” case to Off. Weekley’s, but quickly corrected himself. He has however repeatedly said that the Weekley trial should be held after the Jones trial, despite the assertions that the two are separate cases.

In a lengthy lecture to the electronic media, Judge Hathaway again made the two cases seem as one. Detroit police who raided the Jones home after midnight were looking for Chauncey Owens, who lived upstairs from the Jones family in a two-family flat, with a warrant related to the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, two days before.

According to Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who filed a civil suit against the police days after Aiyana’s killing, suspect Owens left the house earlier in the day in full view of officers surveilling the place, and could easily have been arrested.

“I remind everyone, especially the family, friends and media, this is a situation where there are two children not alive anymore because they were killed,” Judge Hathaway said at the beginning of the hearing. “This matter should be taken very seriously. Our case is related to another case that another judge has. We are waiting for that judge to dispose of that case so we can proceed with our trial.”

Judge Hathaway said someone from “the electronic media,” who she did not identify, had contacted her staff prior to the scheduled “flash-bang” re-enactment and insisted that they would be present despite her order excluding the media. She also said the prosecutor had not confirmed the time and location of the re-enactment until the day before.

Judge Hathaway said not only she, but members of her staff and deputy sheriffs were to be present at the demonstration. She expressed concern for the safety of those individuals, but said nothing about the safety of neighbors or their reaction to watching such a spectacle in their neighborhood.

Prosecutor Moran said during the hearing that the Michigan State Police had selected a house from among 200 houses on the East Side identified by the Detroit Department of Buildings and Safety as “similar” to the Jones family’s home at the time.

Related news:

Still seeking justice for Aiyana (FCN, 10-12-2012)

Hurting family sues A&E, The First 48  (FCN, 12-30-2010)

Hundreds march against police killing of 7-year-old in Detroit (FCN, 07-13-2010)

Family tells story of police invasion (FCN, 5-28-2010)

Community outraged and mourning after police kill 7 year old girl (FCN, 05-25-2010)