City retirees protest draconian cuts during Detroit bankruptcy hearing Aug. 19, 2013
DAREA says they have resources to appeal trial outcome if it benefits only banks, not retirees
FGIC, party to infamous $1.5 billion COPS loan, reported ready to settle in exchange for unknown amount, city real estate
Kevyn Orr on COPS loan: “Void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable”
By Diane Bukowski
October 14, 2014
DAREA meets July 17, 2014
DETROIT – The Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association (DAREA) say they and others will appeal U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven W. Rhodes’ final ruling on the Plan of Adjustment if it continues to devastate retirees. As the case stands now, it appears likely only global banks will profit from the POA.
Major creditor and final hold-out Financial Guarantee Insurance Corporation (FGIC), which along with Syncora, Inc. insured the notorious $1.5 billion “Certificates of Participation” loan to Detroit in 2005-06, is reported to be ready to settle by Oct. 16. In exchange, they will get cash from bond issues and large chunks of revenue-producing downtown city real estate.
DAREA leader and city retiree Cecily McClellan
“We have the resources for an appeal now,” retiree Cecily McClellan told VOD.
“The Objectors to the bankruptcy are being called today to appear in court tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. The lack of notification is to prevent participation, preparation and public awareness. These are citizens without attorneys. We need your support and presence in court Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. in Room 242 of the Federal Building, 321 W. Lafayette.”
Individual objectors, including former Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson, along with many DAREA members, prepared motions with witnesses and briefs at Rhodes’ command weeks ago, but were not informed exactly when the hearing would be. Rhodes said at the time that he planned to schedule it on the last day of the POA trial.
Jones Day, on behalf of the city, has already filed an omnibus response to the objectors, likely to speed Rhodes’ final decision along.
McClellan noted that drastic cuts to retirees’ pensions and annuities proposed in Detroit’s bankruptcy are now being considered in the California bankruptcy proceedings of Stockton and San Bernadino. Previously, those cities had refused to touch pensions themselves, while at the same time enacting cuts in retiree health care. CalPERS (California Public Employee Retirement System), the largest in the U.S., wielded its clout in hearings to protect pensions.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) public workers on strike in California last year.
CalPERS also came to the aid of Detroit, filing an amicus brief with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to support appeals of Judge Rhodes’ bankruptcy eligibility decision by seven Detroit retiree and union entities. All seven have now indicated they will withdraw their appeals if the so-called “Grand Bargain,” $816 million to the retirement systems while the city withdraws its legally obligated payments for at least the next 10 years. Detroit’s retirement systems are worth about $6 billion.
But Stockton bankruptcy judge Christopher Klein, taking a page from Rhodes’ eligibility decision last December, ruled Oct. 1 that California’s public employee retirement law “is simply invalid in face of the U.S. Constitution.” Terming state public pension protections nothing but contracts, as did Rhodes, he said they can be cancelled or modified under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in order to pay off bankers.
Oakland CA public workers demand “Make the banks pay”
Klein has not actually sanctioned pension cuts yet, because the Stockton bankruptcy has not even reached the Plan of Adjustment stage, although it was filed a year before Detroit’s. Detroit is the only city that filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy under at the command of an unelected Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr.
Bloomberg News reported that Californians for Retirement Security, a coalition of school teachers, police officers and other public employees, blasted Klein’s ruling. .
“We are disappointed that the judge has sided with Wall Street in a decision that has the potential of devastating citizens, employees, and making bad situations worse,” said Dave Low, the group’s chairman.
The Detroit Free Press reported today that FGIC, after months of closed-door mediation supervised by U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan Chief Judge Gerald Rosen, is ready to reach a deal by Oct. 16, 2014.
Joe O’Keefe of Fitch Ratings smirks as Stephen Murphy of Standard & Poor’s presses disastrous $1.5 BILLION COPS loan on Detroit City Council Jan. 31, 2005. Rhodes has not yet ruled on Kevyn Orr’s lawsuit challenging this loan as “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable.” Photo by Diane Bukowski
“City lawyer Tom Cullen told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes that the sides are close to a deal and hope to announce it in court Thursday morning,” reported Matt Helms. “Cullen said only that the deal would involve a share of bonds the city will issue to pay off creditors and ‘development aspects’ he didn’t detail.
“People familiar with the negotiations have told the Free Press that the deal with Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. would involve cash from bonds and access to downtown real estate, including possible long-term leases of city parking garages. FGIC has a $1.1 billion claim against the city.”
Syncora, the other POC insurer, reached a similar deal with the City (i.e. Kevyn Orr-Jones day) Sept. 15. Syncora was a minor insurer compared to FGIC. Their deal involves a $44.8 million pay-out from new debt, plus control of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and the Grand Circus Park Garage, including all their revenues.
FGIC CEO Timothy Travers. FGIC itself has just emerged from a financial crisis.
FGIC’s deal can be expected to be much larger.
In January, EM Orr filed a lawsuit against the POC holders, stating the entire debt, which has skyrocketed to $2.8 billion with interest and default fees, is “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable.” But instead of canceling the debt in toto, Orr and Jones Day have played footsie with the creditors under the table during Rosen’s secret mediation sessions. Rhodes has never heard the lawsuit.
Rally against DTE at its headquarters March 10, 2011. Participants also stormed inside and took over the lobby.
State Senator Tupac Hunter adds hardship to poor families
Hunter also supported legislation to allow 20-year state takeover of Detroit
By Agnes Hitchcock 313-873-1513
Sept. 29, 2014
I am personally experiencing the negative repercussion of legislation introduced by Tupac Hunter (Primary Sponsor) and other regional legislators. This legislation holds a property owner liable for utilities used by any occupants (tenants, squatters, freeloaders) when DTE loosely uses the term “utility theft.” This practice destroys lives without an explosion. Not only does it destroy lives, it also further destroys the housing stock in the city of Detroit. DTE is at the point of calling unpaid bills utility theft.
Gov. Rick Snyder(r), with State Sen. Tupac Hunter and Detroit EM Kevyn Orr at left, laud the passage of 11 bills that will keep Detroit under state control for the next 20 years.
Attached is my complaint to the Michigan Public Service Commission. I further intend to forward a complaint to Attorney General for the State of Michigan, the United States Department of Justice, the ACLU and any other individual or entity I find associated with the legislation I believe it is fundamentally wrong to deny an individual a basic necessity to life: particularly to make a profit for DTE.
DTE, Public Act 128 and Senate Bill 1310 are telling me:
Once DTE alleges Utility Theft
As a property owner I am liable for the unpaid bill USED BY ANYONE AT THE ADDRESS once DTE used the term “utility theft.”
DTE has a right to deny future service at the address for anyone.
DTE can transfer a bill to another account and threaten or carryout shut off because of an unpaid bill at a different property.
Youth participate in demo against DTE March, 2011.
DTE can charge additional fees and tariffs.
DTE can charge a property for installation of additional utility facilities (Whatever that means.)
DTE loosely defines unpaid bills as utility theft.
Further details will be provided to anyone interested. You or someone you know may be the next one impacted by this legislation. If you know of anyone else caught in this situation, please forward the information to me.
A fund raiser/awareness event is being planned for the payment of this ransom. Further details will follow.
Attached: Public Act 128/Senate Bill 1310 July 2010
Judge, prosecution, defense conspired to protect Detroit police state
Family left in agony, as St. Louis rises up
By Diane Bukowski
October 11, 2014
Warrior cops on streets of St. Louis this week.
DETROIT – As “warrior cops” armed with assault weapons and tanks rode through the streets of St. Louis this week to stem protests against police killings of three young Black men, here in Detroit, a mistrial was declared Oct. 10 in the case of another “warrior cop,” Joseph Weekley, Jr., for the second time.
Weekley shot seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones to death May 16, 2010, shortly after midnight, during a military assault on a home on the city’s impoverished east side, as cameras from A&E’s “First 48” TV program rolled. Four young children, with their parents, grandmother, great-aunt, uncles and cousins, were asleep there when an incendiary grenade shattered the flat’s front window. Within seconds, Weekley stormed in and shot Aiyana through the top of her head with his MP5 submachine gun.
From that moment in occupied Detroit, the fix was in.
“As soon as they hit the window, I hit the floor and reached for my grandbaby,” Aiyana’s grandmother Mertilla Jones said after police released her several days later. They had arrested her immediately after shooting Aiyana to death. At the time, police admitted that Weekley’s story that she interfered with him, causing his gun to fire, was not supported by the evidence. (See her testimony at this trial, above.)
“I saw the light go out of her eyes and blood coming out of her mouth,” Ms. Jones, the mother of eight children, said. “I had never seen anything like that before: my beautiful, gorgeous granddaughter. I can’t trust them; I can’t trust the Detroit police.”
Joseph Weekley shown as star on A&E’s Detroit SWAT website.
She spoke at a press conference held by family attorney Geoffrey Fieger May 19, 2010, after this reporter questioned her to counter the first question asked by a mainstream reporter, “Didn’t Charles give Chauncey the gun?” in the killing of JeRean Blake, 17, on May 14, 2010.
Shocked, Fieger asked, “What has that go to do with it?”
Aiyana’s father Charles Jones was not charged in the Blake case until 17 months later. An inside source has said that a Michigan State Trooper investigation of Aiyana’s death was primarily aimed at setting her father up to justify the invasion of her home. The source said shell casings found in the backyard, produced as evidence in the trial of weaponry in the home, were dug up and looked as though they had been there for years. No weapons or ammunition were found during the raid. The only person named in a warrant for the raid was Chauncey Owens, who lived in the upper flat with Aiyana’s aunt.
From that point on, most of the mainstream media has acted as virtual press spokespersons for the Detroit Police Department, taking advantage of deliberate police leaks. In recent months after the Jones-Owens’ convictions, many reported that police had a warrant for Jones before the raid, an utter falsehood never testified to in any trial. They have also repeatedly reported that Owens was “hiding” in the upper flat, when in fact that was where he had lived for a lengthy time.
Warren Evans in trailer for A&E series “The Chief.” He was fired shortly after his plans for this series became known. He is now running for Wayne County Executive.
Then Detroit police chief Warren Evans sanctioned the embedding of “The First 48” crew with raid teams and authorized “no-knock” raids without first asking the person sought to step outside, which Owens did on his own the night of April 16.
Police reported in Weekley’s first trial that they had surveilled the home all day before the raid, and saw Owens emerge several times. Despite their denials, four minutes (the time it took VOD to walk the distance reported at the trial) was clearly long enough for them to speed around the corner and arrest him without incident.
They also took take daytime photos of numerous brightly-colored children’s toys in the two-family flat’s front yard, shown in evidence at both trials. Nearly every “Special Response Team” member questioned during Weekley’s trial denied seeing the toys, a virtual impossibility. They are even partially seen in the A&E video of the raid. Aiyana’s cousin Mark Robinson, held outside while the “warrior cops” invaded the home, testified that he repeatedly cried out, “there’s children in the home.”
This photo was taken hours after Weekley shot Aiyana to death, by VOD. Toys seen here are the same toys portrayed on slides during Weekley’s trials.
Weekley’s testimony that Mertilla Jones grabbed his gun, contradicted by forensic and eyewitness testimony, as well as the testimony of officers who said they saw no toys, should constitute perjury.
Team leader Sgt. Tim Dollinger said they would have carried out the raid regardless but might not have used the stun grenade if children under “18 months” were in the home, towards the end of the prosecution’s case, an utterly arbitrary selection of age. In addition to Aiyana, her three baby brothers were also in the home, including Dominika and Charles Jones’ two-month-old newborn baby. In Georgia this year, a 19-month old baby was severely burned when a stun grenade landed in his crib.
Aiyana and one of her three little brothers, all present in the home when she was killed, celebrate Christmas during happier days. FAMILY PHOTO
Aiyana’s family and supporters had called for the entire police command involved in the raid, from Evans on down, to be indicted for Aiyana’s murder, but a Wayne County Grand Jury, composed of Chief Criminal Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny, a member of the ultraconservative Federalist Society, only authorized “involuntary manslaughter” and “reckless use of a fiream resulting in death charges.”
Weekley was released on personal bond and has been free since, while Jones and Owens were remanded without bond, and have not seen the light of day for years.
After Owens was brought to trial and accepted a plea bargain for second degree murder, the media reported for months afterwards that he named Charles Jones as the gun provider in the Blake case. This reporter combed through his court file for hours. It said only that Owens pled guilty on condition that he “tell the truth.”
Charles Jones (l) and Chauncey Owens (r) during trial; Jones’ attorney Leon Weiss with back to camera.
In police videotapes of Owens’ interrogation after the raid, shown during the Owens-Jones trial in April of this year, Owens only confessed to the killing after police allowed him to talk to his fiancée, who told him, “’Yana’s dead.” Owens repeatedly insisted that Jones did NOT give him the gun, naming another man.
In April, 2014, two separate juries found Owens guilty of first-degree murder despite lingering questions about the involvement of his brother Sh’rron Hurt. The second found Jones guilty of second-degree murder for “aiding and abetting,” although they exonerated him of the gun charges which were the only reason for his murder charges.
Owens was sentenced to life without parole. Jones, who had crawled through his daughter’s blood and brains on police orders the night of her killing, was sentenced to 40-60 years plus 10-20 years for perjury. He tried to put a brave face on at his sentencing, but broke down in tears, overwhelmed by grief for his daughter and his separation from his family, including six sons.
Both sentences are on appeal.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy with Asst. Pros. Robert Moran at her left, testifying at state legislative hearing.
Mostly appallingly, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy allowed Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran to try both Aiyana’s father Charles and Chauncey Owens, while at the same time pursuing the case against Weekley.
Moran’s demeanor during Weekley’s trials was not protective of Aiyana’s relatives, for whom he should have been advocating. He never once jumped up to object to defense attorney Steve Fishman’s continued characterization of Mertilla Jones’ emotional, weeping testimony as a “diatribe,” and his continual demeaning of Ms. Jones on the witness stand, during the second trial.
Fishman repeatedly mocked her statement that “the police came to kill,” that Weekley put his gun to Aiyana’s head. None of the rest of the media aside from VOD reported Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt’s testimony that a contact gunshot wound to the head would NOT cause stippling, a condition Fishman cited as evidence that there was no close-range firing.
Fishman continually testified FOR Weekley, who never took the stand in his second trial, that Mertilla Jones had tried to grab his gun. Forensics experts testified neither the DNA nor the fingerprints of Ms. Jones were found on the gun, which was falsely reported at first by George Hunter of the Detroit News, who also called Ms. Jones testimony a “diatribe.”
SRT police officer Shawn Stallard said he saw no struggle with Weekley.
His statements were discounted by the second officer on the scene, Shawn Stallard, who testified he never saw any struggle between Jones and Weekley, and by Sgt. John Robert Collins, who described Weekley’s frantic behavior after the shooting, coming up to him and grabbing and shaking HIS gun, after which Collins told him, “Just tell the truth.”
Moran never objected to Fishman’s irrelevant statements about Ms. Jones’ sons being in prison. During the first trial, he objected to the use of Facebook photos, taken at unknown times and places by unknown individuals, allegedly showing male family members with guns, but not in the presence of the jury, who freely saw and handled the bogus evidence.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s stance in both of Weekley’s trials has clearly been biased toward him. She instituted a thorough screening of the jury venire of hundreds, having them fill out questionnaires asking whether they would be influenced by events in Ferguson, MO or by books and articles such as “The Rise of the Warrior Cop” on the militarization of the police. Only those who were not tossed out based on their questionnaires were verbally examined in court.
She also demeaned Mertilla Jones, calling her testimony “acting out.”
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway.
Astounding even mainstream media, Hathaway granted a “directed verdict” dismissing the involuntary manslaughter charges against Weekley, leaving the jury to ponder only the high misdeameanor of “reckless use of a firearm resulting in death.” The prosecution’s appeal of that verdict was denied by an appeals court headed by Judge Michael Talbot, known for his racist treatment of those who come before him.
In 1986, as a Detroit Recorders’ Court Judge, he caused gasps when he sentenced Damion Todd, 17, to mandatory life in prison without parole at hard labor and in solitary confinement, for murder, a sentence that does not even exist in Michigan jurisprudence. He added another term of 100 to 200 years for assault with intent to commit murder. He likewise has ruled that the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision outlawing juvenile life without parole is not retroactive, a ruling being appealed by a consortium of attorneys on behalf of Michigan’s juvenile lifers.
He was on the appeals panel that summarily overturned Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt’s ruling barring “jail-house snitch” Jay Schlenkerman from testifying against Charles Jones, the father of Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
Jail-house snitch Jay Schlenkerman testified against Aiyana’s dad. He is shown here in his current MDOC residence.
Months ago, VOD was contacted by an inside source with friends in the Prosecutor’s office who foretold the dismissal of the manslaughter charge, and that Weekley would walk with no jail time. He said many were upset about Moran’s handling of the case, which was confirmed later by Moran’s statement to family members that many in the office were no longer speaking to him.
Where does the blame lie in this debacle? Clearly, the police state and prison nation that this country has become, the judge, the prosecutor and the defense attorney conspired to get Weekley off. Prosecutor Kym Worthy conspired to blame Charles Jones for the death of his daughter.
But what has happened to the people of Detroit?
Many conducted an angry candlelight vigil outside Aiyana’s home after her death.
But then media personalities like the late Angelo Henderson and Mildred Gaddis of 1200 AM began muddying the waters, using repeated interviews with Lyvonne Cargill, the mother of JeRean Blake, to criminalize the entire Jones family. Despite Henderson’s pro-police stance, including his daily reporting of crimes among poor people while ignoring the crime of the rich, he was hailed by many prominent Detroiters as a hero at his funeral.
Youth protest St. Louis police killing of Vonderrit Myers, 18.
In the wake of their commentary, and other biased mainstream media reporting, the people of Detroit went to sleep, unlike the people of St. Louis and Ferguson, MO, in particular the youth, who have risen up after the virtual executions of three young Black men by white police officers there.
Meanwhile, during our sleep, not only Aiyana Jones’ life, but the entire City of Detroit, including our Water Department and Belle Isle, has been stolen from under our feet with virtually no effective resistance or outcry. “Warrior cops” and the police state are meant to suppress any resistance to the blatant robbery of everything owned by Black and poor people in the U.S., beginning first with the largest Black-majority city in the country, Detroit.
WHEN WILL DETROIT RISE UP?
Related articles on this trial (put “Aiyana” in VOD search engine to review dozens of stories published since the day Aiyana was killed; VOD has covered virtually every trial and hearing in this case.)
St. Louis, MO — An off-duty police officer in St Louis has shot and killed a black teenager, prompting a repeat of the Ferguson protests that followed the death of Michael Brown two months ago today.
Police in the already conflict-ridden county of Missouri said that the officer involved was wearing his uniform but working a second job as a security guard when the incident occurred late on Wednesday night.
The officer, who is 32 years old and white, was unharmed in the incident.
Pictures from the scene on Shaw Boulevard in south St Louis showed people gathering to protest the shooting. KTVI News reported that the crowd was preparing to march on the St Louis police station, with many chanting “hands up don’t shoot”, a slogan that was used across the US after Ferguson.
Crowd confronts police car in St. Louis; tweets later reported police car and truck windows were broken out.
As with the death of Michael Brown, there were conflicting initial reports on whether or not the victim, who has been named locally as 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers, was armed.
Teyonna Myers, 23, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper that she was the cousin of the man and that he was unarmed when he was killed.
Crowd at scene of shooting, Clemm and Shaw
“He had a sandwich in his hand, and they thought it was a gun. It’s like Michael Brown all over again,” she told the paper.
St Louis Public Radio quoted chief of police Sam Dotson as saying that the officer fired “17 times”, while alderman Antonio French, on the scene with protesters, tweeted: “At the scene of yet another young man’s death. This happens too often in our city. It’s a crisis that we should all be concerned about.”
He later wrote: “The victim’s mother was here. She fainted. An ambulance came to attend to her. There is nothing like a mother’s pain at the loss of a child.”
St. Louis Alderman Antonio French at scene.
But a spokesperson for St Louis Police, Colonel Alfred Adkins, said the officer – who has not been named – approached Myers and three other men in the street and only “returned fire” after he was shot at himself.
“As [the officer] exited the car, the gentlemen took off running. He was able to follow one of them before he lost him and then found him again as the guy jumped out of some bushes across the street,” Adkins said.
“The officer approached, they got into a struggle, they ended up into a gangway, at which time the young man pulled a weapon and shots were fired. The officer returned fire and unfortunately the young man was killed.”
Angry crowd confronts St. Louis police after off-duty cops kills Black teen Oct. 8, 2014/AP
2ND NIGHT OF PROTESTS OVER ST. LOUIS COP KILLING OF BLACK TEEN
UPDATE FROM AP
October 10, 2014
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed jostled with police as she attempted to deliver petitions in August, calling for a special prosecutor in the case of Michael Brown, killed by Ferguson police Aug. 9, 2014.
ST. LOUIS — Protesters angered by the fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by police faced off with officers in south St. Louis for a second night as accusations of racial profiling prompted calls for a federal investigation ahead of a weekend of planned rallies and civil disobedience.
State and city leaders have urged the Justice Department to investigate the death of Vonderrit D. Myers in the Shaw neighborhood Wednesday night, fearing he was targeted because he was black. Police say the white officer who killed Myers was returning fire, but Myers’ parents say he was unarmed.
Marchers in St. Louis block street in a second night of protests over police killing of Vonderrit Myers, 18.
“This here was racial profiling turned deadly,” state Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, a St. Louis Democrat, said at a news conference Thursday.
Myers’ death comes two months after the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of Michael Brown, a black unarmed 18-year-old, by a white police officer in nearby Ferguson. Brown’s killing sparked dozens of often violent protests in the St. Louis suburb. A state grand jury is deciding whether Officer Darren Wilson will face charges in his death.
Late Thursday night following a quiet candlelight prayer vigil for Myers, hundreds of people joined a more rowdy gathering in Shaw to protest his death.
Police in riot gear lined up on a high street, flanked by brand name stores and restaurants. Protesters yelled abuse and profanities to taunt the officers, who silently stood their ground. Police helicopters buzzed above the neighborhood. Officers used pepper spray to force the crowd back.
St. Louise police in riot gear line up to block protesters October 9, 2014. AP
Some protesters burned the American flag, while others banged on drums and shouted “This is what democracy looks like!” Some slammed the sides of police vans. Broken glass littered the street.
Eventually the protesters backed off, moving a couple of blocks away. Riot police remained in the area.
Organizers say thousands of activists and protesters from around the country are expected to come to the St. Louis area for four days of rallies, marches and civil disobedience to protest the Ferguson shooting, racial profiling and police violence. The events, which start Friday and include a march Saturday in downtown St. Louis, have taken on added urgency in the wake of Myers’ death.
Atty. Jerryl Christmas at site of protests in Ferguson, MO over Michael Brown’s killing.
“This is a racial powder keg,” said Jerryl Christmas, a St. Louis attorney who was among more than 20 black leaders who joined Nasheed at a news conference Thursday outside police headquarters. “All this is going to do is escalate the situation.”
Police say Myers was both armed and aggressive, using a stolen 9 mm gun to shoot at the officer.
Syreeta Myers said her son was holding a sandwich, not a gun. “Police lie. They lied about Michael Brown, too,” she told The Associated Press by phone Thursday.
St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson said the officer spotted Myers and two other males around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday while working a security job and patrolling a neighborhood near the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Dotson said the officer, who was off-duty but wearing his uniform, became suspicious when one of them started to run.
He chased them, first in his car and then on foot, Dotson said.
During the chase, he got into a physical altercation with Myers, who ran up a hill, turned and fired at the officer, the chief said. The officer, who wasn’t hurt, shot back.
Ballistic evidence shows Myers fired three shots before his gun jammed, Dotson said. Police said they recovered the 9 mm gun, which was reported stolen on Sept. 26.
The officer fired off 17 rounds. Preliminary autopsy results show a shot to the head killed Myers, according to medical examiner Dr. Michael Graham.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Graham said Myers was shot six or seven times in the lower extremities and the fatal shot entered his right cheek.
Authorities have not released the name of the six-year veteran of the St. Louis Police Department. The 32-year-old officer is on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
An attorney for the officer told the newspaper that his client served with the U.S. Marines in Iraq and was “shaken up” by the incident. He called claims that Myers was carrying a sandwich not a gun “ridiculous.”
Online court documents show Myers was free on bond when he was killed. He had been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, a felony, and misdemeanor resisting arrest in June.
Myers’ was the third fatal shooting of a black male by St. Louis-area police since Brown’s death.
“It’s imperative that we began to heal this community,” Nasheed said. “This community has been broken down. We have too many deaths at the hands of police officers.”
From the Stop Killer Cops campaign by the Congress of African People in the early 70’s to this moment, OBS and its members have consistently educated, agitated and organized our people and allies about the role of the state and how to fight for justice in a system that has disproportionately targeted black and brown people for prisons and America’s death rows.
Justice for Mike Brown
Our lived experience has been tested since the racist shooting of Mike Brown on August 9 by Ferguson cop Darren Wilson. Our local social justice movement immediately rose to action to navigate through the chaos to a place of planned strategic action. We are serious when we say “No more business as usual!”
Local authorities thought it would be a fleeting flare-up and then complacency would set in. But here we are almost two months out and there continues to be daily protests, organizing meetings and trainings.
You have shown your solidarity in many ways including holding actions in your respective cities, making financial contributions, or actually coming to the Ferguson epicenter to bring your skills and energies. Even Hong Kong youth have been inspired by the actions in Ferguson with images of the “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
OBS and our coalition partners invite you to join us for a Weekend of Resistance. If you cannot attend, pass this on to those who may be in driving distance and who can participate in one or more of the days of activities. This is a movement building moment that requires our collective wisdom and action if we are to build and sustain a national campaign to address the systemic issues of police violence.
Top: (l) Joseph Weekley (r) Aiyana Jones; bottom: depiction of shooting.
UPDATE: COA panel, headed by Michael Talbot, one of the most racist, backward judges on the bench, has denied the prosecution’s appeal of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s dismissal of involuntary manslaughter charges against Aiyana Jones’ killer, Joseph Weekley.
Appeals Court Judge Michael Talbot
The court said, “The trial court orally granted defendant’s motion for directed verdict and entered a written order to that effect. Because [this] took place before any appellate review was able to occur, the Court is barred from reviewing the trial court’s decision.”
The appeals court order was posted in George Hunter’s article in the Detroit News before it was even up on the court website, indicating that he got it from his usual source, defense attorney Steve Fishman. The decision is at Weekley final COA order.
Aiyana Stanley-Jones/photo from mother Dominika Stanley-Jones’ Facebook page
A state Court of Appeals panel is currently reviewing the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office appeal of Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s order dismissing an involuntary manslaughter charge against Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley in the death of Aiyana Jones, 7, on May 16, 2010. (Links to appeals documents are at bottom of story.)
The panel is headed by Appeals Judge Michael Talbot and includes Kurtis T. Wilder and Kirsten Frank Kelley.
In their appeal, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Chief of Research on Appeals and Training Timothy Baughman, and Asst. Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Chambers argue that the case should go to the jury as presented. They say that Judge Hathaway’s ruling was a “legal error” contrary to her actual finding in the case, and cite a 1995 Michigan Supreme Court opinion defining involuntary manslaughter.
Hathaway said as part of her ruling that “the trier of fact can decide if the Defendantfailed to use the ordinary care to avoid injuring another when to a reasonable person it must have been apparent that the result was likely to be serious injury.”
The prosecutor then cites People v. Datema, where the high court ruled that the crime of involuntary manslaughter can be committed EITHER with the intent to injure OR in a grossly negligent manner.
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway with husband Dewayne Hayes, a Wayne Co. Dep. Sheriff.
“In the latter instance,” it says, criminal liability is imposed because, although the defendants’ acts are not inherently wrong, the defendant has acted or failed to act with awareness of the risk to safety and in willful disregard of the safety of others.”
According to the transcript of the Oct. 3 arguments, Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran said, “He [Weekley] knew what the standard was, he knew what ordinary care was required because they go in there with all this powerful equipment, an MP5 submachine gun, a ballistic shield, vest, whatever the case may be, they’re trained how to use it, they’re trained the proper way to use it. He could have avoided injury if he had followed his training, he didn’t. As a result of not following his training and not following the mandates of ordinary care, someone was killed.”
Numerous Special Response Team members testifed earlier that they are repeatedly trained to keep their index finger on the slide of the gun, off the trigger, even if involved in a confrontation. One officer said the training results in automatic “muscle response.”
Brent Sojea, weapons expert, said Weekley’s gun, which he is holding, cannot fire accidentally.
A weapons expert said Weekley’s gun could not be fired accidentally, only by exerting eight to nine pounds of pressure on the trigger.
Defense Attorney Steve Fishman cited only the U.S. Supreme Court case, People V. Evans, which Detroit News reporter George Hunter included in his Oct. 3 story, without acknowledging that Fishman was his source for finding the case.
In that case, Fishman said, “The United States Supreme Court has clearly stated that the trial judge’s ruling cannot be appealed and that retrial on that count is prohibited by the Double Jeopary clause of the United States Constitution. Therefore, the prosecution’s emergency application for leave to appeal should be denied.”
However the Appeals Court rules, courts have proven throughout this country that justice for people of color in particular is rarely rendered, as in the acquittal of George Zimmerman for killing Travyon Martin, and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper’s refusal to prosecute Northland Mall security officers who killed McKenzie Cochran, 25, as he cried out, “I can’t breathe” and “I’m dying” while they held him down.
Youtube video above posted by “Lady Justice,” who quoted Benjamin Franklin, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”
“They are killing our people and it hurts my soul so much.”
“The officer openly lied in court and said the Grandmother physically attacked him.”
“We just witnessed a travesty of justice.”
Court scheduled for Mon. Oct. 6 8:30 A.M. in Weekley trial; Jones family supporters ask people to come
By Diane Bukowski
October 5, 2014
(L to r) Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Officer Joseph Weekley
UPDATE: The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled late Oct. 3, “The Court orders, pursuant to MCR 7.205(E)(2), that plaintiff’s application for leave to appeal is HELD IN ABEYANCE pending the Court‘s review of the pleadings, and further proceedings are STAYED pending resolution of this appeal or further order of this Court.” Click on Weekley COA order to read order. VOD will provide updates as appeal proceeds.
DETROIT – Outrage is building nationally in the wake of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway’s move to dismiss involuntary manslaughter charges against police officer Joseph Weekley for killing Aiyana Jones, 7, on May 16, 2010. Her ruling has been stayed pending a decision by the state Court of Appeals.
Many who have attended the trial called on the public to turn out in court Monday, Oct. 6 at 8:30 a.m. to let Judge Hathaway know they are watching. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office confirmed that the jury will reconvene that day.
“They are killing our people and it hurts my soul so much,” said “Em” on the national Black website Madame Noire. “It was bad enough they were killing our men. Now it’s our women and kids and the babies. I can’t deal with this. I pray that God covers all of the people of color. It’s not safe for us.”
Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana, weeps as she shows the child’s photo before hearing on the cop who killed her October 29, 2012.
Nat X said, “The same Officer openly lied in court and said the Grandmother physically attacked him upon entry. Which is a Felony [perjury]. His testimony was not backed up by other Officers who said they saw no one attack him or try to take his weapon and the discharge was not in fact accidental.”
Daniel Ferguson III of Detroit posted a photo of Hathaway on Facebook, remarking, “This is the face of a compromised kneegrow. She should be recalled now. WE JUST WITNESSED A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE.”
Police brutality activist Ron Scott noted, “I think that the question of manslaughter, that’s what it was. This family has suffered for four years.”
When the charge was announced in 2011, many in the community called for a higher charge of second-degree murder to be brought against Weekley, but a one-man grand jury comprised of Wayne County Circuit Court Criminal Division Chief Judge Timothy Kenny authorized the manslaughter charge after lengthy investigation.
The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office confirmed Oct. 3 that a stay is in place on Hathaway’s ruling and that an emergency appeal has been filed with the state Court of Appeals, contradicting a report from the Detroit News that a decision to appeal had not yet been made.
“The [Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office] has filed an Application for Leave to File Emergency Interlocutory Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals,” Wayne County Asst. Prosecutor Maria Miller said in a release. “Because the jury trial is in progress no further comment will be made about the matter. The judge has instructed the jury to return to court on Monday, October 6, 2014.”
Aiyana Jones/Photo from mother Dominika Jones’ Facebook page,
Meanwhile, Aiyana’s mother Dominika Jones posted photo after photo of her first-born child on her Facebook page, saying “Heyyyy Yannnnnaaaa! I miss you so much.” Her grandmother Mertilla Jones cried out, “My little princess!” when told of the attempt to dismiss the charges.
The same Detroit News article, by George Hunter, said without substantiation that Weekley is likely to serve no time on the misdemeanor charge of reckless discharge of a firearm resulting in death.
The applicable statute MCL 752.861(1) says however, “Any person who, because of carelessness, recklessness or negligence, but not wilfully or wantonly, shall cause or allow any firearm under his immediate control, to be discharged so as to kill or injure another person, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 2 years, or by a fine of not more than $2,000.00, or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 1 year, in the discretion of the court.”
Hunter also cited also a U.S. Supreme Court decision which he said bars appeal of a judge’s grant of a directed verdict, failing to note that Hathaway has stayed her ruling pending a COA decision.
The Feb. 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Evans v. Michigan, upheld a trial judge’s directed verdict of acquittal of a man charged with burning a vacant home, saying a re-trial would subject him to “double jeopardy.” (Read full ruling at USC Evans v Michigan.)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
However, the decision distinguished between directed verdicts based on “substantive” vs. “procedural matters,” with the latter not implying double jeopardy.
“Thus, an ‘acquittal’ includes ‘a ruling by the court that the evidence is insufficient to convict,’ a ‘factual finding [that] necessary establish[es] the criminal defendant’s lack of criminal culpability,’ and any other ruling which relates to the ultimate question of guilt or innocence,’ Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, citing a previous case.
“These sorts of substantive rulings stand apart from procedural rulings that may also terminate a case midtrial, which we generally refer to as dismissals or mistrials. Procedural dismissals include rulings on questions that ‘are unrelated to factual guilt or innocence,’ but which serve other purposes,’ including ‘a legal judgment that a defendant, although criminally culpable, may not be punished’ because of some problem like an error with the indictment.”
Paralegal Roberto Guzman has written many successful appellate briefs for Michigan prisoners.
Davontae Sanford family and supporters after appeals court hearing August 6 Mother Taminko Sanford-Tilmon and stepfather Jermaine Tilmon at right. Sanford was convicted of four drug house murders that happened when he was 14, and his family is fighting to overturn his conviction because another man, Vincent Smothers, has confessed. Paralegal Roberto Guzman is in bottom center of photo. The Sanford-Tilman and Jones families earlier held joint protests about their cases.
He said, “Evans held that jeopardy bars retrial after a directed verdict midway through the trial even when the court grants a dismissal based on an erroneous element of a charged offense. We don’t have the same situation here that was present in Evans . . . . Instead Weekley’s situation is one where the judge dismissed the charge on the basis of the definition of ‘gross negligence’ found in the jury instructions; not on an element of the offense. So if the court of appeals is being asked to review the jury instruction I can’t see how that’s jeopardy for purposes of a retrial because it doesn’t appear to have been a dismissal on the element of the charge.”
Mertilla Jones tearfully tells Weekley, with his attorney Steve Fishman, “You know I never touched you, Officer Weekley.”
He added, “I can’t understand why Mertilla’s testimony alone would make or break the gross negligence standard. I would have thought the other officers’ testimony that Weekley violated protocol established gross negligence.”
Defense attorney Steve Fishman said in arguing for the directed verdict, “The only evidence that points to any kind of knowingly creating a danger or intending to cause injury, the only testimony is that of Mertilla Jones, which is by its nature and by comparison to the other testimony, including the medical examiner, is completely and totally unbelievable.”
However, the following testimony has also been given during the trial:
A weapons expert testified that Weekley’s MP5 submachine gun cannot be accidentally fired, that it takes 8-9 lbs. of pressure on the trigger to fire.
SRT member Sgt. Shawn Stallard, second into the house, testified he saw no struggle between Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s grandmother, and Weekley. Weekley testified in his first trial that such a struggle caused his weapon to fire. Stallard said Weekley kept asking him what he saw.
Sup. Sgt. John Robert Collins was clearly still distressed by killing of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones as he testified this week. He said: “My life has not been the same since that night.”
SRT Sgt. Supervisor John Robert Collins testified that Weekley ran up to him on the porch of the house in after the shooting. “I had my MP5,” Collins said. “It was in a low ready position on a sling. I made contact with Officer Weekley in a frantic state. He was reaching and grabbing and clawing at my gun repeatedly with both hands; he appeared to be in shock. He kept saying, ‘She grabbed my gun.’ I made sure my gun was on safety, because I didn’t want it to go off. He said, ‘I shot her.’ I think what I said, because of the circumstances the only thing that came to mind was, ‘Tell the truth.’ We’ve been trained not to say everything will be OK. My family always told me when I was in trouble, ‘Tell the truth.’”
Numerous SRT members testified that they are repeatedly trained in trigger discipline and weapons retention, i.e. keeping one’s index (trigger) finger on the slide of the gun above the trigger even if someone tries to take the gun.
Fishman repeatedly demeaned Mertilla Jones’ testimony that Weekley entered, put his gun to Aiyana’s head, and fired. Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt testified there was “no evidence of close-range firing” due to the lack of stippling around the wound. However, he added that in a case where the muzzle of a gun is placed directly against the head, there would also be no stippling. Numerous scholarly pathology articles support that.
Taminko Sanford-Tilman (left) weeps at joint rally for justice for her son Davontae, Aiyana and Charles Jones, Travyon Martin April 23, 2013.
Defense claims “gross negligence” must be “wilfull”;
Prosecution said in opening statement that Weekley didn’t kill child on purpose, deflected consideration of testimony to the contrary
By Diane Bukowski
Oct. 3, 2014
DETROIT – At 10 a.m. this morning, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway granted a motion by Joseph Weekley’s defense attorney Steven Fishman to dismiss count one of the charges against him in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones—involuntary manslaughter.
The second count is “reckless use of a fiream resulting in death.”
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway
“I don’t see evidence in this case that the defendant willfully disregarded the results to others,” Hathaway said. “This entire trial has been about the carelessness of the defendant based on his skills. In the light most favorable to the prosecution, there is a conflict between one part of the jury instructions and another part. There is no evidence that supports willfully disregarding care. But the [next] three questions are for the trier of fact. With the conflict, I am going to err on the side of the defense, and grant the motion for dismissing count one.”
Weekley was part of a military “Special Response Team” that raided Aiyana’s home May 16, 2010 late at night. Other members of the team said his gunshot went off within at the most, three seconds after his entry into the house. They testified extensively that they are trained to keep their finger off the trigger, even if someone tries to take their gun.
Weekley claimed Mertilla Jones grabbed his gun, causing it to fire. The second officer into the home after Weekley said he saw no such confrontation. An evidence technician reported that neither the DNA nor the fingerprints of Mertilla Jones were on Weekley’s MP5 submachine gun.
Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s grandmother
Fishman argued that the only evidence supporting a verdict of guilty on the first charge was the testimony of Mertilla Jones, Aiyana’s grandmother, who directly saw Weekley shoot Aiyana in the head, from where she was in the room only a short distance away. He claimed Jones said Weekley “assassinated” Aiyana, a term she has never used in her testimony.
He said the elements of the legal definition of involuntary manslaughter involve finding gross negligence, which means more than carelessness.
Hathaway granted a stay of her decision, requested by the prosecution, until 11:10 a.m. when the court was to resume today’s hearing. However, the prosecution said it had filed an emergency appeal with the Court of Appeals and asked for an expedited hearing, so the hearing in front of Hathaway will resume Monday, Oct. 6.
Hathaway described the elements in question (summary, not verbatim):
Elements of instructions on manslaughter to prove charge:
The defendant caused the death of Aiyana Jones with a gunshot wound.
In doing so, he acted in grossly negligent manner.
Gross negligence means more than carelessness, it means willfully disregarding ordinary care
Elements of instructions to jury:
Defendant knew of the danger to another.
He could have avoided injury by using ordinary care.
Defendant failed to use ordinary care.
Dominika Stanley-Jones, Aiyana’s mother, collapses in court after first mistrial declaration in June, 2013. She had to be carried out,
Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran also prosecuted Aiyana’s father Charles Jones in the killing of JeRean Blake May 14, 2010, resulting in a sentence of 40-60 years, with the jury convicting him of second-degree murder but acquitting him of the gun charges on which the murder charges were based. That case is on appeal.
Moran objected to a directed verdict in Weekley’s case and asked for a stay.
“There is enough on the record to send the elements to a jury,” Moran said. He said the prosecution had never argued that Weekley intentionally shot Aiyana. “The JURY will have to decide the three elements of crime, not whether it was willful or not. If they find those elements, it means gross negligence.”
Throughout the trial, however, the prosecution has failed to object to what one activist called “racist and sexist,” insulting treatment of family members by the defense. Judge Hathaway herself has demeaned family members in her comments from the bench, scolding them as if they were children for “acting out” when they broke down to overwhelming grief caused by reiterating what happened.
Fishman cited Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt’s testimony in his argument this morning as favorable to the defense because there was no evidence of gunpowder “stippling” on the wound. However, VOD reported that at the end of his testimony, Schmidt said if the muzzle of a gun is placed directly against the head of the victim and fired, there WOULD BE NO STIPPLING.
The diagram illustrates the basic differences between the skin appearance of a contact, close (intermediate), and distant (indeterminant) range gunshot wound. From Medical Library, University of Utah
That is what Ms. Jones testified she saw–a gun placed at Aiyana’s head, testimony which Fishman continually badgered her about, as if it was inconceivable that a police officer would deliberately shoot anyone. VOD brought his testimony to the attention of both Moran and Mark Hindelang, the second asst. prosecutor, during breaks, but they scoffed it off. It clearly interfered with their theory that the shooting was not deliberate.
Testimony from a blood splatter expert earlier was that there were large droplets of blood on the portion of Weekley’s ballistic shield which covers the eyes with see-through material. That appears to indicate that Weekley must have shot Aiyana while holding the shield, a grossly negligent action. Other members of the team testified they are taught to drop the shield upon entry if there is no immediate danger such as gunfire. Most said they do not carry the shield, and if they do, they carry it using a short gun.
The blood splatter expert also said that blood on the shield dripped down afterwards in a horizontal pattern as if the shield had finally been placed on the floor after the shooting. Numerous members of the SRT team testified that they are trained and retrained with regard to “trigger discipline,” keeping their trigger finger held straight out against the slide above the trigger, even if someone tries to take their gun.
Trigger discipline: man’s gloved trigger finger pointed straight out on slide above trigger.
A weapons expert testified that Weekley’s gun could not be fired accidentally. So if he did not fire it accidentally, he fired it ON PURPOSE, WILFULLY.
Judge Hathaway herself has repeatedly said throughout the trial that she trusts the members of the jury, which was extensively weeded out regarding opinions on the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and on the militarization of the police. However, one juror told the judge during a subsequent voir dire on an earlier defense motion for a mis-trial that she thought Fishman was disrespectful to family members, in contrast to the way he questioned police.
VOD reported much earlier that an individual in close contact with members of the Prosecutor’s office reported that such a scenario was in the works, with count one being dismissed and the jury considering only “reckless discharge” of a firearm. He said many in the prosecutor’s office are upset with the way the case has been handled with regard to Aiyana’s family.
Family members of Aiyana told VOD that Moran told them all jurors wanted to find Weekley guilty of manslaughter during his first trial. But Hathaway declared a hung jury during that trial after only three days of deliberation.
MORE TO COME LATER.
Rally for Justice for Aiyana on courthouse steps March 8, 2013,
Related stories on this trial, many of which contain information deliberately not reported by daily print and TV media:
EMAIL SENT TO JUDGE HATHAWAY BY PARALEGAL ROBERTO GUZMAN:
Dear Judge Hathaway:
As a resident of Wayne County who has, like you, sat through and heard much of the testmony in the Joseph Weekley trial, I write to urge you to reconsider your decision preliminary dismissing the count of involuntary manslaughter. The court’s comments on the record early this morning expressing reservation that the people have met their burden is belied by the evidence.
In particular, the court expressed concern that the people have not shown that Officer Weekly “willfully” disregarded the results of his actions toward others. The contrary is true. The evidence showed that (1) the SRT and Weekley himself KNEW there were children in the home as they sat out there surveiling the home for hours that day and saw children coming to and fro the residence; and (2) Weekley’s finger on the trigger is a willful disregard that the gun would fire into an occupied home and shoot its occupants.
There is no question he knew the home was occupied and children were in that home. Moreover, the evidence shows he violated protocol on having his finger on the trigger. Clearly, that showed willfulness.
And as an aside, I find it pretty pathetic that much focus was placed on the grandmother’s alleged lies about whether Weekly deliberately walked up to the little girl and shot her while the court, and the media backing Detroit Police, seem content to ignore the lies Weekly told that Ms. Jones struggled with him over the weapon and that is what caused it to fire.
If the court grants a directed verdict, that would tell me that the Court believes Weekley, despite the medical examiner’s findings and the forensics evidence showing he shot the girl immediately upon entering that home. I can only hope your conscience will not allow you to make the wrong decision and let a lying cop walk free. As a result a darling little girl is dead. Your decision will only give Detroit Police the license to kill and lie about it.
I will hold you to your publicly sworn duty as a justice hired by the taxpayers of Wayne County to uphold justice,failing of which I will remember this at election time.
Roberto Guzman on bullhorn in march to free Davontae Sanford and Charles Jones, and Justice for Aiyana Jones.
Mertilla Jones says her breakdown on stand Sept. 24 not planned; expert testifies neither her fingerprints nor DNA found on Weekley’s gun
Sgt. Collins: Weekley grabbed HIS gun, shaking it repeatedly, but Collins retained weapon, told Weekley, ‘Tell the truth’
Cops deny presence of toys in front yard despite photos
Pastor: “DPD murdered a baby girl, owes family respect, apologies, and financial compensation.”
By Diane Bukowski
October 1, 2014
Mertilla Jones at press conference Oct. 29, 2012, demanding trial for Joseph Weekley. Continued protests eventually forced him to court.
DETROIT – Her face worn with the grief of four years since her grandaughter Aiyana Jones was shot to death in front of her by Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley, Mertilla Jones braved an onslaught of attacks, finishing her testimony in Weekley’s re-trial Sept. 30. She appeared to use every iota of strength to retain her composure under defense attorney Steve Fishman’s hostile cross exam.
The following day, Sgt. John Robert Collins, a member of the military Special Response Team that raided Jones home late at night on May 16, 2010, said that Weekley grabbed HIS gun with both hands and repeatedly shook it, alleging Ms. Jones had just done the same to him, causing his gun to fire. Saying he has not been the same since that day, Collins testified he put his own gun on safety, retaining his weapon without discharging it as SRT officers are trained, then took Weekley’s MP-5 submachine gun and revolver, and told him, “Just tell the truth.”
SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 TESTIMONY
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway with husband, Wayne Co. Deputy Sheriff Dewayne Hayes. She was formerly married to Judge Michael Hathaway but kept the popular Hathaway name. Michael Hathaway sentenced reporter Diane Bukowski in 2009 on trumped-up charges for doing her job as a reporter for the Michigan Citizen, at the scene of a state trooper chase that ended with the deaths of two Black Detroit men. He granted a prosecution motion to ignore Bukowski’s First Amendment rights. The prosecutor in the case, Thomas Trczinski, died of a massive heart attack Dec. 24, 2013 at the age of 56.
When Ms. Jones took the stand Sept. 29, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway told her, “Remember, to get respect you have to show respect. Last week the court showed a great deal of respect. That will not be the case if you act out that way again. We all know that you’re hurting and hurting real bad, but just answer the questions.”
About a dozen Jones family members, friends and supporters attended the trial that day, unlike the previous day when police officers and their families took nearly every available seat in the courtroom.
Hathaway had denied a defense motion for a mistrial the day before after polling jurors about their reaction to Ms. Jones’ testimony Sept. 24, during which she broke down, tearfully begging Weekley to tell her WHY he had come into her house and killed her seven-year-old granddaughter. Jurors said they could still render a fair verdict.
Defense attorney Steve Fishman claimed her breakdown was “premeditated and deliberate” in asking for a mistrial.
On Sept. 29, Ms. Jones told Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran, “I heard a loud explosion and I saw a lot of light coming from the front of the house. Glass was breaking and Aiyana’s head was on the arm of the couch [next to the door]. I rolled off the couch and hit the floor. . .The door flew open and the police came in, they kicked it open. They were saying ‘Detroit police,’ wearing riot gear with face masks, all in black, and combat boots. . .As soon as the door flew open, I heard a shot . . .before I knew it Aiyana was shot. Her eyes flew open and blood was coming out of her mouth. The officer was right in the doorway. I told them, ‘Y’all f—ed up, you killed my grandbaby.”
Aiyana Jones with little brother Carlos in happy years.
Ms. Jones said she laid on the floor screaming, asking “Somebody help Aiyana.”
“I hollered out to my son ‘they killed your daughter.’ . . . they [the officers] ignored me, running toward the back of the house. Then an officer turned on the light, looked down at Aiyana, and said ‘Oh shit,’ and he picked her up and ran her out of the house.”
Ms. Jones said the SRT team went through the house rousting out the sleeping members of her family, ordering them to come to the front room. They told her to sit on a second couch with her sister JoAnn Robinson.
“Then they brought my son Charles, Dominika and [Aiyana’s] three little brothers out of the bedroom. They had Charles on the floor, they made him crawl on his hands and knees. I went over to him and hugged him; he fell on the couch [where Aiyana was shot] crying. . . He was screaming and hollering, what’s this, mama, what happened to my baby. Charles was picking up her brains and blood . . . They sat Dominika on the arm of the couch where Aiyana had got shot; she was holding her newborn baby Christian.”
Ms. Jones said she asked permission to get her medication, but that she never got a chance to take it because plainclothes officers asked her to step outside. When she did, she testified, they told her she was under arrest and handcuffed her behind her back.
“I just kept crying, ‘Y’all killed Aiyana, why you all killed my grandbaby,’” Ms. Jones continued. They didn’t say why I was being arrested. They took me to a station on the west side, fingerprinted me and took my picture.”
Defense attorney Steve Fishman repeatedly mocked Ms. Jones’ allegation that Weekley put his gun to Aiyana’s head, as he demonstrates here with Weekley. Wayne Co. ME Carl Schmidt’s testimony, however, left that possibility open, saying a contact gunshot would not leave stippling. Fishman said the lack of stippling was evidence of no close-range firing, He repeatedly used the word “assassinated” which Ms. Jones never used.
She said two white male officers then put her in a small room and took her statement, although she didn’t know that’s what they were doing. They also took a DNA sample after she told them, “You can have anything you want.”
Judge Hathaway later granted a defense motion to suppress the introduction of that statement, given five hours after Aiyana’s death, as well as the police video of the interrogation.
Fishman then began cross exam.
“Your demeanor is a lot different today, wouldn’t you agree?” he asked. “You intentionally created that scene [Sept. 24] on purpose, didn’t you?” He referred to previous occasions on which she testified and had not broken down.
Ms. Jones replied, “No, I did not do it intentionally.”
Since Ms. Jones’ previous testimony, Aiyana’s father Charles Jones was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of JeRean Blake, despite his acquittal of the gun charges on which the murder charge was based. He was sentenced to 40-60 years in prison. Two of Ms. Jones’ sisters, including JoAnn Robinson, present during the police incursion, have died.
Mertilla Jones and grandsons after 2012 police raid. Photo by Diane Bukowski
Ms. Jones told VOD that police repeatedly targeted the family, arresting and eventually releasing several young male members as well as her daughter LaKrystal Sanders. She said they repeatedly drove by the family’s new address, shining lights inside her windows. In May, 2012, police attempted to raid their house again near midnight, which VOD reported in a separate story after going to the scene immediately. She said she and her daughter LaKrystal Sanders had experienced repeated bouts of serious illness.
Sanders told VOD that she now sleeps on the couch by the window at a new location, so she can watch her mother on a second couch. She said her mother continually wakes up during the night in anguish.
Fishman told Ms. Jones she was “angry,” citing several quotes she allegedly gave various media outlets. He said, “To you, it’s simple, it’s murder.”
“Of course I was angry,” Ms. Jones replied. She affirmed some of the quotes and said she was otherwise misquoted.
Fishman claimed she said she was treated unfairly because of where she lived. He told her, “You don’t know anything about any of our backgrounds,” referring to himself, the prosecutor and the Judge.’’
“And you don’t know anything about my background,” Ms. Jones responded. Ms. Jones graduated from Detroit East Catholic High School in 1980 and has an extensive extended family living in Detroit. She attends church at activist Pastor Willie Rideout’s All God’s People Ministries in Detroit and had met with him the night before.
Pastor Willie Rideout of All God’s People Ministries being interviewed after hearing in Theodore Wafer case, for killing Black teen
Rideout, who was present at the hearing that day, told VOD during a break, “It appears that this case is going on too long. It appears that the defense is getting more leeway than the prosecution. This is a hurting family, a hurting grandmother. It is so sad that they want to turn this case against them. She has suffered severely losing her granddaughter and she sees her family suffering every day. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that this man killed Aiyana. The Detroit Police Department murdered a baby girl. They owe the family the utmost respect, apologies, and financial compensation.”
He continued, “It brings tears to my eyes. It’s hurtful to see her cry like this and see people try to turn things around. I’m glad the judge did not allow a mistrial. People have to put themselves in this family’s shoes.”
Police brutality activist Ron Scott, also present, said that prior to the tenure of former police chief Warren Evans it had not been the policy of Detroit police to execute search warrants in such a militarized fashion, that they normally knocked, said they had a warrant, and asked the subject to come out before forcing entry.
On resumption of testimony, Fishman told Ms. Jones,“You know the difference between a truth and a lie. And you know the difference between a little lie and a big lie. You know [your statement] that [Weekley] put a gun to Aiyana’s head was a big lie.”
Ms. Jones replied firmly, “No.”
Detroit SWAT team officers in battle dress uniform. Their eyes are not covered.
Fishman then told her she didn’t know that the Medical Examiner had testified that Aiyana wasn’t shot at close range because there was no gunpowder stippling around the wound, mischaracterizing the ME’s full statement.
As VOD reported earlier, Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt added at the conclusion of his testimony that if the gun’s muzzle was directly against Aiyana’s head, there would have been no stippling. Asst. Prosecutors Moran and Mark Hindelang raised no objection, although Moran earlier confirmed to VOD that Schmidt made the statement.
Fishman grilled Ms. Jones about her statements that Weekley showed no remorse.
“You said you could see his eyes, and that he didn’t look remorseful after he assassinated your granddaughter,” Fishman said. Ms. Jones told him that was correct, and that even though Weekley was wearing a mask she could still see his eyes.
Ballistics shield similar to that Weekley used. A crime scene technician said Weekley’s shield was covered with Aiyana’s blood, but that the drip pattern showed it had been laid down horizontally after the shooting,
A police officer later displayed “battle dress uniforms” worn by SRT members. They include a “balaclava,” a black knit hood with eyeholes, and a mask which still leaves the eyes exposed. Weekley carried a ballistics shield, the only time his eyes would have been covered, but another officer testified later the shield is to be dropped after safe entry into a location.
Fishman then queried Ms. Jones about the presence of other family members in her flat as well as the flat upstairs, where her daughter and Chauncey Owens, convicted in the killing of JeRean Blake, lived. She said her sons Vincent and Dazmond Ellis and Charles Jones were living with her at her address at the time, as well as her sister JoAnn Robinson and her sister’s two grandsons Mark and Markwell Robinson. She said Charles’ fiancée Dominika Stanley and their four children, including Aiyana, were also visiting for several weeks.
Ms. Jones denied knowledge of the killing of JeRean Blake at the time it took place. Although the daily media has reported since three days after Aiyana’s death that Owens said Charles Jones gave him the gun that killed Blake, police videotape of Owens’ testimony at their trial showed him naming another individual. No court records show that Owens ever named Jones.
Asst. Prosecutor Robert Moran in front as Charles Jones’ defense attorney Leon Weiss questions witness during Jones’s preliminary exam in 2012. Moran is the prosecutor in both the Weekley and Jones cases.
Without objections from the prosecution throughout the cross exam, Fishman continued to grill Jones about her alleged hatred of the police, to which she replied that she has police officers in her family and does not believe they are all bad.
Fishman implied that several family members had said that Jones told them she didn’t see the shooting. On rebuttal, Moran said that she never testified that she didn’t see the shooting, and that she told police from the beginning that she had. It was at that point that Hathaway granted Fishman’s motion to exclude Ms. Jones’ written and videotaped police statements from the trial to remedy the effects of Fishman’s attempted impeachment.
Fishman called her statement to the police “hearsay.” Hathaway said the written statement itself was not significant. Fishman repeatedly used the word “assassinated” with respect to Jones’ statements regarding the killing of Aiyana. However, she herself has not used that word in either of Jones’ trials.
Markwell and Mark Robinson then testified. Mark Robinson said he had just gotten up to round up two puppies who had escaped from the yard when the SRT team pulled up.
“The police came out shouting to me to get down on the ground and one stood on my back from one to two hours,” Robinson said. “I saw the cops running [into the house], and I was yelling to them, ‘There’s kids in the house, there’s kids in the house.”
He said the police then threw the flash bang grenade through the window and that he heard what sounded like a gunshot directly afterwards.
JoAnn Robinson and grandson Mark Robinson on porch morning of Aiyana killing May 16 2010. Ms. Robinson passed away within the year. Photo by Diane Bukowski
“After that, that’s when they were running with Aiyana Jones, with her head slumped over and her feet the other way,” Robinson continued. “Blood was dripping from her head. I heard my aunt [Mertilla Jones] screaming, ‘You killed my baby.’ After that, they brought her on the porch and handcuffed her.”
On cross exam, Robinson said he had heard of the shooting of JeRean Blake May 15 and suspected Owens might have been involved. He also said when the police came, he suspected that’s why they were there.
SRT member Corporal Larry Davis testified he threw the stun grenade through the living room window. He identified where he was standing on the porch at the time from a photo, indicating that he was standing right next to a “Little Tykes” child’s chair on the porch. Davis said during a previous raid, his military-style vest saved his life when a gunman opened fire when he entered the house as “point man,” [first in the doorway].
SRT member Trent Brown, who said he served in the Marine Corps for four years, testified that his training there and with SRT, along with the “camaraderie” displayed among members, were very similar. He testified extensively regarding the weapons training he underwent, including weapons retention, and keeping his index finger off the trigger, on the slide of the gun pointed straight ahead.
OCTOBER 1, 2014 TESTIMONY: FRANTIC WEEKLEY GRABBED SRT MEMBER COLLINS’ MP5; COLLINS TO WEEKLEY: ‘TELL THE TRUTH’
Testimony Oct. 1 opened with that of SRT members Bibbs and Kata-Ante Taylor, most of which VOD missed. Taylor testified during VOD’s presence that he was the officer who had rushed Aiyana to the hospital, accompanied by an officer trained as a medic and Sgt. Bibbs.
Artrell Dickerson, 18, killed in 2008 by SRT team member Kata-Ante Taylor,
Taylor is also the officer who shot 18-year-old Artell Dickerson to death in the back, as he lay already wounded next to the Cantrell Funeral Home in 2008, according to testimony from two eyewitnesses. Dickerson’s family was awarded $1.5 million in a settlement.
SRT Sgt. Supervisor John Robert Collins then took the stand. He appeared to be still grieving over Aiyana’s killing.
“I’ve never been the same since that night,” he told Moran.
He testified he heard one gunshot round go off almost “on top of” the explosion caused by the stun grenade.
“When the gunshot went off, there was a delay of time,” Collins said. He testified he then saw SRT officers carrying a child from the house running very quickly. Then, he said, Weekley exited the house and approached him on the porch, grabbing at HIS gun. Collins’ response as he described it was in keeping with SRT training.
“I had my MP5,” Collins said. “It was in a low ready position on a sling. I made contact with Officer Weekley in a frantic state. He was reaching and grabbing and clawing at my gun repeatedly with both hands; he appeared to be in shock. He kept saying, ‘She grabbed my gun.’ I made sure my gun was on safety, because I didn’t want it to go off. He said, ‘I shot her.’ I think what I said, because of the circumstances the only thing that came to mind was, ‘Tell the truth.’ We’ve been trained not to say everything will be OK. My family always told me when I was in trouble, ‘Tell the truth.’”
Raid team leader Timothy Dollinger shown as star of A & E’s Detroit SWAT.
He said he took Weekley back to an SRT vehicle, and took his MP5 and .45 caliber revolver from him, standard operating procedure in an officer-involved shooting.
He said he “made the weapons safe” first.
SRT member Timothy Dollinger, just promoted to Captain before retiring in July after 20 years with DPD, 17 of them with the SRT, testified next.
Dollinger said he was in charge of SRT tactics that night.
“It was my decision to go into the lower flat first,” he said, “because I heard on the radio that the surveillance crew had spotted the subject (Owens) going into the lower flat.”
These are the same toys shown in a surveillance photo taken the day before the raid on the Jones home.
He said it was his job to surveill the location first to determine the correct address, identify traffic in the area, impediments to entry, and the presence of “children, dogs, and seniors.”Dollinger said he and Officers Bibbs, Stollard, and Weekley drove by the residence sometime between 9:30 p.m. and 12:50 p.m., likely an hour before the raid. He said the team drove by quickly, and “might not have had” camera equipment with them, so they did not take pictures. He said he could clearly see the addresses of both flats but did not see any children’s toys.
Moran showed him a photo taken earlier in the day by another surveillance team which showed numerous brightly colored children’s toys in the front yard on either side of the porch, but Dollinger again denied seeing the toys, as have most of the SRT team members who have testified so far.
On cross exam, Dollinger said the presence of children in the house would not have stopped execution of the search warrant. He said a stun grenade could still be used unless there were children under “one and a half years” old in the house.
Bounkham Phonesavanh, 19 months, after being struck by a stun grenade thrown by Georgia SWAT team members. He is shown in a medically induced coma. His photo is at top of story with other child victims of police,
In May of this year, a Georgia SWAT team tossed a stun grenade into the home of a suspected drug dealer where a family with five children was temporarily staying. It landed in the crib of infant Bounkham Phonesavanh, 19 months old, severely burning him and forcing the hospital to put him into a medically induced coma, fighting for his life. His family has since asked for a Justice Department investigation.
The Georgia SWAT team members expressed shock and remorse, unlike Dollinger, who remained impassive throughout his testimony.
TESTIMONY OCT. 2, 2014
On Oct. 2, 2014, Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway banned this reporter from the courtroom for the rest of the trial due to an alleged noise she made during Dollinger’s testimony about the 18-month-old age limit for stun grenades. She had originally told her she could stay, but defense attorney Steven Fishman and evidently some members of the media, including the Detroit News’ George Hunter, complained to Hathaway, who changed her mind.
Hunter even ran an article in the News about this momentous event, during which he tweeted that “everyone in the media” knew who made the noise, and raised the issue of Bukowski’s arrest in 2008 in violation of her First Amendment rights, as she took photos for the Michigan Citizen of the aftermath of a fatal state trooper chase. Numerous government and community leaders and even four major media stars joined her defense team at the time.
In his tweet, Hunter admitted he had mistakenly reported that Mertilla Jones’ fingerprints were on Weekley’s gun, which was not the case according to testimony from a crime lab official, who said near Jones’ DNA nor fingerprints were on the gun.
He also erroneously reported in an earlier story on this trial that police had a warrant for Charles Jones when they made the raid, a notion that other media outlets have run with. During this trial, the only evidence about a warrant has been that with Chauncey Owens’s name on it. But so much for corporate media support of the police and another violation of Bukowski’s First Amendment rights.
SRT member Shawn Stallard, second officer on the scene, said he saw no struggle between Weekley and Mertilla Jones,
Livestream video of the testimony today showed Officer Shawn Stallard on the stand. He was the second team member into the home after Weekley, and he testified again, as he had at the first trial, that he did not see Mertilla Jones struggle wlth Weekley, although he was looking the other way at first.
Stallard said regarding Weekley, “He was just in a state of shock and was asking me ‘where were you, what did you see, what did you see.’ He said somebody snatched his weapon as he came in the house.”
The prosecutor asked, “Did you see anyone jump up and grab his weapon?” to which he responded “No.” Asked if he heard Weekley tell anyone to get off his weapon, he again responded no.
Detective Sgt. Tawanna Powell, head of the Michigan State Troopers’ investigative unit regarding police shootings, public corruption, and other matters, also testified about her entensive review of the evidence in the case. She said she did not access it until that Monday morning, July 17, but thereafter reviewed and handled all crime scene evidence in the case. Regarding Weekley’s allegations that Ms. Jones grabbed his gun, she said that Ms. Jones was never charged or arrested for the crime of disarming or interfering with a police officer.
The afternoon of the trial was spent at an undisclosed location so the jury could observe the use of a stun grenade in a privately-owned property in Detroit. See video from Channel Four News below. The video also shows Weekley as he was dressed the day of Aiyana’s killing, with his eyes completely visible.
Dunn’s parents were in the courtroom for the verdict. Davis’ parents, Ron Davis and Lucia MacBath, both let out a quiet gasp upon hearing the jury forewoman’s words and then hung their heads and cried.
Dunn did not appear to have an immediate reaction, but later, he turned around and somberly shook his head toward his father.
Dunn, 47, was charged with murder after shooting into an SUV full of teenagers at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station following a squabble over the music emanating from the teens’ vehicle.
Jordan Davis’ parents Lucia McBath and Ronald Davis
Outside the courtroom, Davis’ mother expressed her gratitude for a verdict she said represented justice not only for her son but for “Trayvon and for all the nameless faces and children and people that will never have a voice.”
She was referring to Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager killed earlier the same year by a neighborhood watch captain who was acquitted in the death.
“Words cannot express our joy but also our great sorrow because … we know that Jordan has received his justice,” she said. “We know that Jordan’s life and legacy will live on for others, but at the same time, we’re very saddened by the life that Michael Dunn will continue to live. We are saddened for his family, for his friends and the community that will continue to suffer by his actions.”
The victim’s father said the verdict made Jacksonville “a shining example that you could have a jury made of mostly white people, white men,” that delivers justice in a racially charged case.
“Hopefully,” Davis said, “this is a start where we don’t have to look at the makeup of a jury anymore.”
Prosecutor Angela Corey said Dunn faces a life term along with a minimum of 25 to life for using a firearm.
“It’s a vindication for justice,” she said of the verdict.
“We believe that we have to have as much justice as we can to assure that Michael Dunn will never ever walk out of a prison.”
Duval County Judge Russell Healey set a tentative sentencing hearing for October 17 but said he would wait until Tuesday to ensure the date worked for Dunn’s defense attorneys.
Crime scene at store parking lot where Michael Dunn killed Jordan Davis.
“This has been going on for two years, and everyone has acted graciously. I ask that you continue to do that,” Healey said before the verdict was read. “Remember, we must respect the verdict of the jury. They did not volunteer to do this.”
Killing Davis was lawful, Healey told the jury, if Dunn acted in the heat of passion or if he unintentionally caused Davis’ death. The jury could also find Dunn not guilty if he was in danger, acted in self-defense and exacted a justifiable use of force, the judge instructed.
Dunn was convicted in February on one count of shooting into a vehicle and three counts of attempted second-degree murder — one each for Davis’ friends, Leland Brunson, Tommie Stornes and Tevin Thompson, who were in the Dodge Durango with Davis that day.
The Satellite Beach, Florida, man hasn’t been sentenced on those charges, but prosecutor Eric Wolfson said at the time of the conviction that each attempted second-degree murder charge carries a minimum sentence of at least 20 years. There’s also a 15-year sentence possible on the conviction for shooting at the teenager’s vehicle, Wolfson said.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez contributed to this story.
Demonstrators in Ferguson, MO, site of police execution of Michael Brown,