A&E photographer’s indictment says she showed videotape to third party
By Diane Bukowski
October 6, 2011
(VOD Ed: this entire story has been published in The Final Call, Oct. 18 edition. It is on the streets as of Oct. 12, but not online yet.)
DETROIT – Seventeen months after a Detroit police “Special Response Team” stormed seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ home in a poor neighborhood and shot her to death as an A&E TV crew was filming, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has charged the child’s father, Charles Jones, 26, with first-degree murder.
At the same time, she charged a single officer, Joseph Weekley, 36, who lives in the well-to-do white suburb of Grosse Pointe, and a single A&E official with lesser charges of manslaughter and perjury, respectively, related to the horrific raid.
Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, who was sleeping with the child on a couch when police tossed an incendiary grenade through the window above them on May 16, 2010, and saw her granddaughter die, expressed utter anguish after her son was arraigned Oct. 5.
“This is a sad day for my family,” Jones, the mother of eight. said. “We are not doing well at all. This is the second one of my sons they have railroaded. I have lost two of my sisters in the last six months. It’s not right to charge Charles after he lost his daughter. Are they going to charge the cops that threw the flash bomb and the ones that tried to cover it up? Meanwhile, a seven-year-old innocent little baby girl is dead.”
Police arrested Ms. Jones, drug tested her, and held her for several days after the raid. Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee (now head of the department) claimed she had “interfered” with Weekley, causing his gun to go off.
She was never charged, but the city has reiterated those contentions in an ongoing civil suit brought by Charles Jones and Aiyana’s mother Dominika Stanley in the case.
Charles Jones’ sister LaKrystal Sanders said, “My brother had nothing to do with that case,” referring to the shooting death of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake two days earlier, the case in which Jones is charged, and the pretext police used for the raid.
Jones’ friends Randolph Monzure and Calvin Carpenter also said he didn’t have anything to do with the Blake shooting.
“They’re trying to railroad him,” Carpenter said. “He already lost his child, and now they’re trying to make more moves.”
Jones was represented at his arraignment by attorney Jonathan Marko of the law firm of nationally noted attorney Geoffrey Fieger. He requested that Jones’ preliminary exam be postponed until Nov. 18 to allow time for discovery. Jones will later be represented by another attorney from Fieger’s firm. Meanwhile he was ordered held without bond.
“He needs representation and deserves representation,” Marko said.
Sanders’ fiancé Chauncey Owens pled guilty to second-degree murder as the shooter in the Blake case, but questions remain. His attorneys tried several times to get his confession thrown out, saying it was taken under extreme duress after he found out Aiyana was dead, and that he was not competent to stand trial.
His sentencing has been postponed twice, due to “problems with the plea deal,” according to the prosecutor’s office. It is now set for Oct. 31.
Local media has claimed his plea deal involved saying Charles Jones gave him the gun, but no such claim exists in his court file. Owens was peacefully arrested during the raid, which took place at 12:30 a.m., although police watching the house saw him outside during daylight hours and could have made the arrest then.
Click on http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/27500721/detail.html to watch the coverage from which the photo above was taken. It says the killing of Je’Rean Blake “led to” the killing of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, leaving out entirely the culpability of the police department in raiding a home they knew was full of young children.
The reporter says Owens will name Charles Jones as the man who gave him the gun. However, nothing in the actual videotape supports that contention. Even Yvonne Cargyll, mother of Je’Rean Blake, says she is relieved Owens pled guilty and that he would name “someone” who gave him the gun.
Mark Robinson, a cousin of Aiyana’s who was out walking the family dogs just before the raid warned the Special Response Team that there were small children inside. Children’s toys were strewn all over the yard.
Worthy brought no charges against the police command involved, or against former police Chief Warren Evans, who signed the contract with A&E to shadow Detroit police. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing refused to meet with community groups about the killing and did not extend sympathy or an apology to the Jones family at the time.
Worthy also brought no charges against A&E as a corporate entity. The charges against “The First 48” principal photographer Allison Howard allege she showed the videotape of the raid to a “third party.” The family’s nationally-noted attorney Geoffrey Fieger said at a press conference after the killing that he had seen a copy of a videotape but did not say it was the A&E tape.
Aiyana’s killing sparked outrage around the world. Emails, articles, and song videos poured in from everywhere. But it was clear from the very beginning that no charges would be brought against the police until her father was charged, largely due to police and media collusion.
During the Fieger press conference, the first question a reporter asked was whether Charles Jones gave the gun to Owens in the Blake case. Talk show hosts repeatedly whipped up division in the community between the two families, diverting attention away from the role of the police.
The Detroit Free Press now has published positive interviews with Weekley’s friends and cited` “expert” sources who allege a jury is likely to be sympathetic to him.
Juries in Wayne County’s Third Circuit, where Jones will also be tried, are generally dominated by suburban whites, according to several studies, since the abolition of Detroit’s Recorders’ Court in 1999. The state legislature folded it into the Third Circuit after a predominantly Black jury convicted two white officers, Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn, of second-degree murder in the beating death of Black driver Malice Green in 1992.
A white cameraman for Fox 2 News, who was filming Jones’ arraignment, wore a “U.S. Marshal” T-shirt and said he worked part-time for the Wayne County Sheriff. In conversation, he expressed sentiments in favor of the first-degree murder charge against Jones.
The prosecutor’s release said Jones is charged with “First Degree Murder (Mandatory Life without Parole), Felon in Possession of a Firearm (5 year maximum penalty), Felony Firearm (2 year mandatory consecutive sentence), Habitual 4thOffender ( Sentence can be enhanced to a Life Sentence) and Perjury at a Court Proceeding (15 years maximum penalty.)”
Worthy said, “It is alleged that, after the argument, Jones accompanied Owens to the scene of the shooting and aided, abetted, and encouraged Owens during the murder of Blake.”
Police Officer Joseph Weekley was arraigned Oct. 4 on charges of “Involuntary Manslaughter (15 years maximum penalty) and Careless and Reckless Discharge-Death Resulting (2 year maximum penalty). A&E producer Allison Howard was charged with “Perjury during an Investigative Subpoena (15 year maximum penalty) and Obstruction of Justice (5 year maximum penalty),” related to her testimony on the A&E videotape of the raid.
Weekley was involved, but never charged, in an earlier case where he and other Special Response Team officers raided a home in similar fashion, guns blazing, and shot two family pets to death in front of young children.
Worthy used legally valid but obscure “one-man grand jury” proceedings and “investigative subpoenas” to bring the charges after first having the Michigan State Police investigate the case. Their investigation, which concluded in March, resulted in a warrant for a single man, whose identity was never revealed. It was clear that they were also focusing on Aiyana’s father, since they impounded a van in his backyard allegedly connected to the Je’Rean Blake killing.
“In cases that generate extreme interest, people always want a quick investigation, and a quick announcement of charges,” Worthy said in her statement. “I will never rush to judgment. I am interested in being thorough and doing the right thing. This has been a long process and we had to turn to a one man grand jury when our normal tools failed to ensure an impartial process with a fair result.”
She said she was precluded under the grand jury statute from discussing details of the case.
This is the first time Worthy, who took office in 2004 as the county’s first Black woman prosecutor, has brought charges against any Detroit police officer in a fatal shooting of a civilian. There have been dozens of cases during that time in which the police killings of young Black men, in particular, appeared highly questionable, but were ruled “justifiable homicides.”
One case involved Officer Kata-Ante Taylor, who is cited as a witness in the civil suit Fieger brought on behalf of Aiyana’s parents against Weekley. It is unclear if Taylor was part of the “Special Response Team” that raided the Jones home.
Fieger’s firm sued Taylor and another officer, Aubrey Wade for shooting 18-year-old Artrell Dickerson to death on the premises of the Cantrell Funeral Home on Detroit’s east side, after a friend’s funeral in Feb. 2007.
The lawsuit contends, “That while Mr. Dickerson was peacefully running away from Defendants TAYLOR and/or WADE, without any warning, just cause, provocation, or threat, Defendant TAYLOR and/or Defendant WADE unlawfully discharged their firearms at least four to five times, inflicting several gunshot wounds into Mr. Dickerson’s back, and fatally wounding Mr. Dickerson.”
This reporter spoke to several witnesses who saw the killing at close range. They said Taylor shot Dickerson in the Dickerson back as he lay on the ground, already wounded.
The Detroit People’s Task Force to Free the Wrongfully Convicted has been demonstrating regularly against what they say is Prosecutor Worthy’s failure to fully examine crime lab evidence that was shown to be falsified in 2008, and grant new trials.
They issued the following statement regarding charges brought in the Aiyana Stanley-Jones case.
“We are deeply disappointed that Officer Weekley was undercharged for what we truly feel was an act of murder. The officers’ actions clearly show premeditation and deliberation sufficient for a first degree murder charge. The Special Response Team admittedly planned and waited until 12:30 a.m. to invade and terrorize the home of Aiyana Stanley Jones that day. . . We strongly condemn the treatment of Officer Weekley as though his only crime is theft in a candy store, while Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ father faces a mandatory life in prison charge of first degree murder. The prosecutor is lenient toward Officer Weekley, while filing maximum charges against Mr. Jones based on nothing but hearsay. This is insulting, nauseating, and disrespectful to the people.”