National News

June 19, 2013

Jury can’t reach verdict in Detroit cop’s trial

DETROIT — A judge declared a mistrial Tuesday after jurors failed to reach a verdict in the trial of a Detroit police officer who fatally shot a 7-year-old girl during a chaotic search for a murder suspect that was recorded by a reality TV crew.

Loud voices could be heard in the jury room a few hours before jurors threw in the towel and were dismissed. They sent three notes, the last one indicating they still couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict on the third day of deliberations, despite encouragement from Wayne County Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway.

Joseph Weekley, a member of an elite police squad, was charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

He was accused of being “grossly negligent” in how he handled his submachine gun as his black-clad, masked and armed unit stormed the Detroit home to capture a suspect in May 2010. Police threw a stun grenade through a window, and Weekley was the first officer through the door.

Weekley told jurors that he accidentally pulled the trigger during a struggle with the girl’s grandmother, but Mertilla Jones denied interfering with the gun. Weekley was not charged with intentionally shooting Aiyana.

The hunt for a murder suspect was being recorded by a crew from “The First 48,” a police show on A&E Networks. Some video shot from the sidewalk was part of the evidence.

The jury could have convicted Weekley of involuntary manslaughter, a felony, or reckless discharge of a firearm, a misdemeanor. He also could have been cleared of all charges.

“This is a bittersweet outcome: Bitter because Weekley was not convicted, and sweet in that justice for Aiyana Jones will come soon,” said Roland Lawrence, leader of a group called Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, which pressed for charges.

The judge listed several factors for the jury to consider on the involuntary manslaughter count. To convict, the jury had to find that he willfully disregarded possible injuries to others by failing to control his gun, as well as other elements.

“We are stuck,” the jury said in its first note Tuesday.

Before dismissing the jurors, the judge asked if anyone believed that more deliberations would be fruitful if “some matters” could be addressed. She didn’t elaborate. Only one juror raised her hand.

“One out of 12 probably won’t be enough,” Hathaway said.

The mistrial doesn’t mean the charges go away. Hathaway wants to discuss the status, including another trial, on July 25.

“The Wayne County prosecutor’s office is prepared to proceed with the case,” Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Weekley or his attorney, Steve Fishman.

Weekley, the last witness during the eight-day trial, admitted he must have pulled the trigger, but only because he was trying to wrest the gun from Jones. No other officers, however, testified about a struggle with Aiyana’s grandmother. One said Detroit police are taught specific techniques to keep a gun away from someone who grabs it.

Prosecutor Rob Moran all but accused Weekley of lying, telling the jury in closing remarks: “It did not happen.”

Weekley said he was distraught after the shooting and was shaking and vomiting.

“I just feel devastated and depressed,” he testified. “I’ll never be the same, no.”

Separately, a videographer for the “The First 48,” Allison Howard, is charged with perjury and withholding video crucial to the investigation. Her trial is set for June 24.

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