Only one African-American on jury
Aiyana’s father jailed since Oct. 2011
May 30, 2013
DETROIT – More than three years after Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley shot seven-year-old Aiyana Jones to death as she lay sleeping, his trial on charges of manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm has begun, in front of a Wayne County Circuit Court jury with only one Black member.
“I am happy and relieved that the trial is finally starting,” Aiyana’s mother Dominika Jones said. “But I want Charles [Aiyana’s father] home.”
Weekley, a resident of the well-t0-do suburb of Grosse Pointe, has been free on personal bond since killing the little girl during a horrific military-style midnight raid on the family’s home in a poor east-side Detroit neighborhood, while cameras from A & E’s “First 48” rolled, on May 16, 2010.
But Charles Jones has been jailed on charges of first-degree murder since October, 2011. The charges, based primarily on a “jail-house snitch” third-party statement, were brought one and a half years after the killing of Je’Rean Blake, 17, on May 14, 2010.
“It’s just so wrong that it took so long,” Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s grandmother, who was sleeping with Aiyana when Weekley shot her, said. “My family is not going to be whole until we are all re-united and can grieve for Aiyana together. I raised eight children, two daughters and six sons, and they never gave me a whole lot of trouble. When my sons got older, many became fathers and are taking care of their children.”
Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran is handling the case against Weekley as well as the case against Charles Jones. He did not challenge the composition of the 13 member jury, which was seated May 30, although forty-two percent of Wayne County’s population is African-American.
The remaining 12 jurors are white. One lives across the street from Weekley in well-to-do suburban Grosse Pointe. Many of the jurors said they have family or friends on police forces in Detroit and elsewhere.
During the May 30 hearing, Moran read off a list of witnesses, including 25 Detroit police officers and seven state troopers.
He named only seven civilian witnesses, including six family members, one of whom, Aiyana’s great-aunt Joann Robinson, has been deceased. There were, however, numerous other family members on the premises during the raid, as well as neighbors who saw it. He did not include as a witness Police Officer Kata-Ante Taylor, who ran Aiyana out of the house before her family members could hold her. Taylor killed 18-year-old Artrell Dickerson in 2008, shooting him in the back as he lay on the ground according to eyewitnesses. The city paid $1.5 million to settle the family’s lawsuit in the case.
“Many witnesses are joint witnesses,” defense attorney Steve Fishman said. “They will likely be winnowed down.” He and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway several times expressed admiration for Moran’s handling of jury selection.
The jury voir dire was conducted by all three, with the attorneys largely using the opportunity to lay out their theory of the case. Moran stressed that Weekley is not charged with a deliberate act.
“He did not wake up in the morning and decide to go out and kill a seven-year-old child,” Moran said.
However, Denessa Westbrook and her family won a federal court settlement last year against Weekley and other members of the same Special Response Team that raided the Jones home, related to a similar raid in 2007.
“Defendants entered the home and did not knock or announce their presence,” that suit alleged. “Immediately upon barging into the home, Defendants had their guns blazing and they began shooting. There were children and an infant present in the home. Without any justifiable reason whatsoever, Defendants shot the Plaintiffs’ two dogs, while a child was in the same room as the dog. Defendants wrongfully detained Plaintiffs for nearly an hour. Defendants had their guns pointed at Plaintiffs and the child and infant.”
Mertilla Jones earlier told VOD that police pointed guns at Charles Jones’ other children when they arrested him in 2011.
Fishman asked jury members whether they believed that Officer Weekley should be held accountable for the circumstances of the raid, which he said was planned by Weekley’s superiors, who have not been charged.
Throughout Weekley’s numerous pre-trial proceedings, Moran, Fishman and Judge Gray Hathaway have appeared to collaborate.
With the assent of both attorneys, Hathaway repeatedly postponed a ruling on a defense motion to dismiss the case until what she termed the “companion case” involving Jones was tried. Charles Jones is still awaiting a ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court on whether the third-party “jail-house snitch” statement can be used against him at trial.
Hathaway finally ruled against the motion to dismiss on March 8 and set the jury trial date.
Likewise, all three concurred in eliminating large parts of the physical evidence from the case.
On Oct. 29, the two attorneys told Judge Hathaway that transcripts of testimony by police officers, detectives and two family members would be the chief records presented at the trial. They agreed everything from the grand jury hearing held by Chief Judge Timothy Kenny should remain sealed.
“We didn’t provide photos, evidence technician reports and sketches, firearms reports and the autopsy report [to Judge Hathaway] because we felt they were not important to the theory of gross negligence,” Moran told the judge then.
During a press conference shortly after Aiyana’s death, Attorney Fieger said a second autopsy showed that she was shot through the top of the head, as she lay sleeping, from the direction of the doorway, not in the throat as the Wayne County Medical Examiner originally contended. The Medical Examiner later concurred with the second autopsy findings.
Detroit police contended after the shooting that it was accidental, that Weekley had already entered the room and was shoved by Mertilla Jones, causing his weapon to discharge.
Hathaway told the jury that they will be taken to view a demonstration of the use of the “flash-bang” grenade in controlled surroundings during the trial. Fishman has contended that the grenade further disoriented Weekley as he entered the home. Moran assented to the demonstration.
Opening statements and testimony in the trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks, will begin Monday, June 3 at 9:30 a.m. Supporters of Aiyana Jones and her family, including several who picketed outside the Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit March 29, are asking people to pack the courtroom.
VOD: WHERE IS DETROITERS’ OUTRAGE TODAY, THREE YEARS AFTER WE DID NOT RISE UP AGAINST THE POLICE SLAUGHTER OF A 7-YEAR-OLD CHILD?
The misleaders and naysayers in Detroit, being used by the police and courts, have deliberately whipped up hostility against Aiyana Jones’ family on radio talk shows and elsewhere, although support for the family remains world-wide. The video below, by Kenny Snodgrass, recalls the outrage present several days after Aiyana’s death. At the beginning, Mertilla Jones is seen weeply loudly before becoming overcome and returning to the house. Charles and Dominika Jones are also seen embracing. Many of Aiyana’s large extended family participated in the candlelight vigil, but a woman who was not a relative said others were there and considered themselves part of the family as well. Imam Dawud Walid says he will ask U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the case. No federal investigation ever happened.
THE FOLLOWING VIDEO IS OF BOB MARLEY’S PERFORMANCE OF “WAKE UP AND LIVE.” He calls out “RISE YE MIGHTY PEOPLE!” and admonishes, “Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy!” Our entire city is being taken from us now by the wealthy white power structure through their divide and conquer strategy.
Support the struggle for justice for Aiyana and Charles Jones and their family members. Pack the courtroom during the trial against killer cop Joseph Weekley!