Weekley’s “rights don’t trump the right of the public and the press” in Aiyana Jones death, says Judge Daphne Means-Curtis
By Diane Bukowski
Sept. 1, 2011
DETROIT – Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis today struck down Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley’s motion to keep secret all material in the civil suit brought against him by the parents of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, until after the case concludes.
Weekley shot the seven-year-old child to death on May 16, 2011, while cameras from the reality TV show The First 48 were rolling.
The judge ordered that only Weekley’s own deposition will be kept from public view due to the possibility of criminal charges, and because he will likely take the Fifth Amendment anyway if deposed.
“The defendant wants too much,” Judge Means-Curtis said. “His rights don’t trump the right of the public and the press to materials that normally would be a matter of public record . . . .It is my intent that there be no gag order, except for the Weekley deposition. The rest of discovery will go forward in this case.”
Weekley’s attorneys Kenneth Lewis and Randall Brown, of Plunkett & Cooney, had sought to deny public access to everything in the case, including the depositions of at least 20 other police officers involved, videotapes, transcripts, and interrogatories.
One of the police officers on the witness list is Kata-Ante Taylor, who shot 18-year-old Artrell Dickerson to death as he ran from him after a friend’s funeral at the Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack in Detroit, in 2008. (Click on http://michigancitizen.com/police-executed-teen-at-funeral-say-witnesses-p4173-1.htm.) No charges have ever been brought in that case either.
Attorney Jonathan Marko of Geoffrey Fieger’s law firm, who represents Charles Jones and Dominika Stanley, Aiyana’s parents, said during the hearing that Fieger does have a videotape related to the events of May 16. It was not clear which videotape it is, since attorneys for the producers of “The First 48” have refused to turn over their tape. However, Marko said he would provide a copy to the defense the following day.
Curtis ordered that Marko schedule depositions of the police officers immediately, prior to depositions of Stanley-Jones family members by the defense. Lewis and Brown refused to allow Weekley’s deposition five times over the last year, then filed for the protective order after Means-Curtis ruled in March that he must be deposed whether or not a criminal investigation had concluded.
The defense only recently sought depositions of the child’s family members and other witnesses, including that of Chauncey Owens, her aunt’s fiancé. Owens is currently in the Wayne County Jail awaiting sentencing for the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, two days prior to the police assault on the Jones home.
Police said they were looking for Owens, who lived in the upstairs flat, when they lobbed an incendiary grenade through the living room window of the lower flat and opened fire on entry, killing the child.
Lewis became verbally combative after the hearing, when asked whether Weekley wants to depose Owens to divert attention to Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father.
Court records show that Owens never said Jones gave him a gun to kill Blake, despite media reports to the contrary. Owens’ sentencing has now been postponed twice, until Oct. 31, pending his statement to “truthfully” disclose who gave him the gun. Prior to his guilty plea, his attorneys had repeatedly sought to throw out his confession, alleging that it was taken under extreme duress. (See VOD story at http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/05/23/owens-never-said-aiyana-jones%e2%80%99-dad-gave-him-gun-used-in-teen%e2%80%99s-killing/).
Owens’ court records also include his statements to police and psychiatrists that he was in the upstairs flat when Aiyana was killed, meaning he did not witness her shooting.
“We want to hear it out of his mouth,” Lewis said. “Have you heard it out of his mouth?”
Lewis refused to disclose how much his law firm is being paid by the City of Detroit to defend Weekley, but VOD has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the city for that public information.
Judge Means-Curtis addressed the issue of the unusual length of the supposed investigation of the child’s shooting death during the hearing.
“The Michigan State Police turned over the results of their investigation in March,” Means-Curtis said. “There is still no indication from the Wayne County Prosecutor as to who if anyone will be charged in connection with the death of seven-year-old Aiyana Jones.”
She said she based her order to depose Weekley on her belief that the criminal investigation “would surely” have concluded by this time. Lewis said in court filings that it is likely the State Police requested a warrant for Charles Jones, not Weekley.
Asked after the hearing whether he believed a criminal investigation was still ongoing, Marko said, “Do you?”
“I know the family wants the criminal investigation to conclude as soon as possible and we hope the prosecutor’s office will move it along quickly and judiciously,” he said.
Roberto Guzman of the People’s Task Force to Defend the Wrongfully Convicted was less tactful.
“Investigation on top of investigation,” he reacted. “A code word used by her [Kym Worthy] simply to deny justice. This is going nowhere and that’s exactly what she wants. I mean, come on. Even Congressional investigations into scandals like Iran Contra, Watergate and more did not take this damn long! It is offensive what we know is going on here – a deliberate denial at justice.”