Apparent collusion between court, attorneys for both sides, to get cop off
By Diane Bukowski
September 29, 2012
DETROIT – Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway delayed ruling on a motion to dismiss charges against Detroit Officer Joseph Weekley, Jr., killer of Aiyana Stanley Jones, 7, during a hearing Sept. 28, until after the child’s father is tried for first-degree murder in another case.
Weekley faces involuntary manslaughter and firearms charges for shooting Aiyana through the head after a Detroit police “Special Response Team” conducted a military-style raid on her home in a poor east-side Detroit neighborhood March 16, 2010. A&E’s “First 48” was filming the midnight raid for national television.
Instead, world-wide media told the story of a little girl’s killing by Detroit police.
Weekley is free on personal bond, while Aiyana’s father Charles Jones and Chauncey Owens have been remanded without bail, charged with killing 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake two days earlier. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran is prosecuting both Weekley and Jones, in what some have termed a “conflict of interest.”
“It took him a few seconds to murder my baby in front of my eyes,” the child’s grandmother Mertilla Jones wept outside the court after the motion hearing. “But two and a half years later, they haven’t tried him yet. Instead they’re going after her father who’s still grieving for his child.”
Jones was sleeping on a front-room couch with Aiyana when police lobbed an incendiary grenade through a window overhead, and watched as Weekley shot her granddaughter to death.
During the hearing, the diminutive Weekley sat stone-faced in the courtroom and avoided looking at Jones as she passed by.
“They arrested me and held me in jail for days,” Jones said, “but the man who killed my baby hasn’t spent a minute in jail.”
Police claimed Jones had “interfered” with Weekley, but never charged her. According to witnesses, after racing Aiyana’s body out of the house, they terrorized the rest of the family, including infants and children, before arresting Owens. He lived in a flat upstairs from the Jones family.
Weekley and Charles Jones were arrested a year-and-a-half later, after a prolonged Michigan State Police investigation and secret one-man grand jury proceedings in front of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny. Kenny charged Weekley, while Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Jones and Owens.
Hathaway, the prosecution and the defense appeared to collude during the Sept. 28 hearing.
“I’ve discussed the situation at length with Officer Weekley, and he absolutely agrees with me and quite frankly with the prosecutor and the court that his trial should be delayed,” defense attorney Steven Fishman said.
Moran had just explained that the prosecution is waiting for a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court in Jones’ case. He and Owens face trial before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt, who earlier barred the use of hearsay testimony by “jail-house snitch” Jay Schlenkerman against Jones.
Moran at first called the Blake killing case a “companion case,” then corrected himself. The companion case in Weekley’s trial is that of Allison Howard, an A&E producer charged with perjury and interfering with an investigation of Aiyana’s killing.
Skutt said the testimony could be used against Owens, who Schlenkerman cited as his source, but not against Jones, under Michigan Rules of Evidence. He said that Schlenkerman, a six-time felon with a history of severe domestic abuse and drunk driving, appeared to have constantly prompted Owens to obtain an alleged statement that Charles Jones gave him the gun used to kill Blake.
The prosecution asked the Michigan Court of Appeals for leave to appeal. Instead, an appeals court panel consisting of Judges Michael Talbot, a member of the right-wing Federalist Society, Kurtis Wilder and Kirsten Kelly summarily reversed Skutt’s decision Aug. 13.
Jones’ attorneys, from the offices of nationally-known attorney Geoffrey Fieger, have asked the Supreme Court for leave to appeal that ruling, and according to Moran received a stay pending their decision.
“Our intent was to try that case first anyway,” Moran said. “The appellate office says they expect the Supreme Court to deny the application by the end of the year, since they don’t usually get involved in pre-trial proceedings.”
Hathaway held a lengthy secret sidebar with both Moran and Fishman prior to her ruling.
“I basically called this pre-trial today to admonish both the prosecution and defense,” she said, although the hearing was listed in court records as a motion hearing. “ I don’t see how I can adequately decide on [the motion to dismiss] without receiving the indictment discovery, which is two to three feet high. I’m going to need time to review this material.”
She indicated that it would be best to postpone her ruling on the dismissal until after the Jones/ Owens trials, since that would give her time to review the discovery materials.
Hathaway has had the cases against Weekley and Howard since November 11, 2011.
Meanwhile, she scheduled another pre-trial hearing for Weekley for Oct. 29, after pre-trial hearings in the Jones/Owens case are held.
Jones’ trial had been set for Oct. 22.
In a civil case brought against him by Aiyana’s family members, Weekley’s attorneys are trying to delay that trial until after the Jones/Owens’ criminal trial. On Oct. 11, at 9 a.m. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis will hold a hearing on a defense motion for a stay of proceedings. A status conference is set for October 26, with trial scheduled for November 11, 2012.
Curtis earlier denied a defense motion for a “protective order” to seal records in the case, including depositions of the officers involved in the raid. She ruled that those depositions should go forward on the completion of the State Police investigation. It is unclear from court records, however, if the officers have been deposed. Defense attorneys from the firm of Plunkett & Cooney, paid by the City of Detroit, have however deposed many of those in the Jones family, according to Mertilla Jones.