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Both Mertilla Jones and aunt LaKrystal Sanders break down on stand

Judge Hathway threatens witnesses, others with arrest

Cops high-five each other near witness room with no reprimand

Michael Brown rebellion in Ferguson, MO re-ignites in meantime

By Diane Bukowski

Sept. 24, 2014

One of Mertilla Jones' favorite photos of her granddaughter Aiyana, from her Facebook page.
One of Mertilla Jones’ favorite photos of her granddaughter Aiyana, from her Facebook page.

DETROIT —  Mertilla Maria Sanders Jones, who saw Detroit police officer Joseph Weekley kill her seven-year-old granddaughter Aiyana Stanley-Jones directly in front of her May 16, 2010, broke down uncontrollably on the stand today, during Weekley’s re-trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter and reckless use of a firearm.


Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran had just asked her whether Weekley put his MP5 submachine gun to Aiyana’s head and pulled the trigger, in the course of a militarized police raid on the family’s home.

“That’s what I felt I saw,” Ms. Jones responded. “Then more cops came rushing in and I asked someone to help my granddaughter. Oh my God, oh Jesus, why did he do that?”

Looking directly at Weekley as she passed by him while being escorted off the stand, she continued, “Why did you do it? Please tell me why you came in my house. You killed Aiyana. You know I never touched you. You’re wrong. She was my baby. I told you all, I get no sleep, I keep having flashbacks. I’m sick. I wouldn’t wish that on nobody. You’re the people who are supposed to protect and serve.”

Defense attorney Steve Fishman angrily confronts Aiyana's aunt LaKrystal Sanders during her testimony as Joseph Weekley watches.
Defense attorney Steve Fishman angrily confronts Aiyana’s aunt LaKrystal Sanders during her testimony as Joseph Weekley watches.

Weekley and his attorney Steve Fishman watched without evident emotion, except for what appeared to be a darker track down Weekley’s face from his left eye.

 During Weekley’s first trial, Fishman accused Jones of trying to grab Weekley’s gun and lying that Weekley deliberately shot Aiyana, among other matters. Without naming Jones in his opening statement this time, he scathingly called her a liar numerous times, asking the jury outright if they could believe Weekley would have killed a child deliberately. He said two of her sons were in prison and otherwise assassinated her character.

The prosecution did not object to those statements.

Wayne County Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt testified last week, however, that a gunshot wound resulting from direct contact with the victim’s head would leave no stippling. The lack of stippling in Aiyana’s case led some to contend that Weekley was a distance away. However, other officers on the raid team earlier corroborated Ms. Jones testimony today, that the gunshot went off within seconds of Weekley’s entry into the house, after a stun grenade had landed on the couch where the little girl and her grandmother were sleeping.

A&E First 48 video of raid on Jones home

Many of Aiyana’s relatives in the courtroom also began weeping with Ms. Jones. They left after she was escorted into the witness room, where she could still be heard loudly crying WHY? The jury was also escorted into the jury room, but first Judge Hathaway instructed them not to try the case based on emotions, but facts and evidence. She ended the hearing for that day. No trial was scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25.

In the hallway, Ms. Jones’ daughter LaKrystal Sanders and Aiyana’s mother Dominika Stanley-Jones asked to talk to her to calm her down, and court security officers brought Ms. Jones out. She slid to the floor while Dominika and LaKrystal embraced her and began weeping again themselves. Several other family members grouped around them were crying, including a young man who was sobbing and hyperventilating. Eventually Ms. Jones and her family left the building with court security to get some air.

Mertilla Jones holds grandchildren after second police raid on their new address in June, 2012.
Mertilla Jones holds grandchildren after second police raid on their new address in June, 2012.

Prior to Ms. Jones’ testimony, while she was not in the courtroom, Hathaway said, “I want everyone to know—and it is unfortunately the case that some of the people are still in the hallway—that I am convinced there is no one in this courtroom who does not feel bad about this situation. I’m not patient about making the situation worse. To the witnesses and everyone else, lawyers, the audience, the media, we have an excellent process for allowing the jury to decide the case. Keep all these things in mind. I would hate to order arrests of witnesses, visitors and citizens, but I will not hesitate to do so.”

Weeping, Sanders had told defense attorney Fishman after a prolonged time on the stand, “You keep asking the same questions. That man killed my niece and she’s gone.” Hostile, Fishman accused her of hating all police, and read a statement she had given earlier to that effect.  . Moran asked her whether that statement was made after her niece was killed, which she confirmed. She was led out to the witness room for a break still crying.

Directly afterwards, a group of police officers standing next to the witness room started talking loudly and high-fiving each other within earshot of the witness room, where Ms. Jones and other witnesses still waited to take the stand. They were not that court’s officers but evidently had come armed to court to support Weekley. Although the jury did not observe their behavior, many of Aiyana’s relatives did.

Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway
Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway

When Sanders returned to the stand, before the jury was recalled, Hathaway admonished her, “You’re not respecting others or yourself.”

 After standing and being recognized to speak, this reporter asked Hathaway, “Judge, would you please include police officers in your warning because they were just out here high-fiving each other?”

Hathaway at first denied the incident occurred, but then said, “I will take your comments into consideration, and let officers know that we have a certain way of addressing matters in this courtroom, and that is strictly professional.”

Hathaway is currently married to a Wayne County Deputy Sheriff.

Ms. Jones was called back upstairs after she left the building, to confer with Moran. She reported that Moran told her he did not want a mistrial as happened previously. She also reported that Moran said ALL the jurors in the first case wanted to convict Weekley of involuntary manslaughter.

VOD reported at that time that Hathaway called a mistrial after only three days of deliberations as follows:

 “On the morning of June 18, loud shouting was heard as the Weekley jury, composed of 11 whites and one Black, continued a third day of deliberations in their room.

“Later, they sent three notes to Hathaway. The first said they were “stuck,” the second asked if they could find Weekley guilty of only some of the elements of involuntary manslaughter, and the final note, sent only an hour later, said they could not reach a verdict. They had been told they could only consider the second charge of reckless discharge of a firearm resulting in death if they found Weekley guilty of the first charge, according to a report from Detroit’s Channel 7 News.

“Hathaway told them they had to find Weekley guilty of all elements, and asked them to continue deliberating after the first two notes. After the third note, she declared a mistrial and thanked the jury profusely for their service.”

Hathaway’s role in the Weekley trial has been open for question for some time.

The First 48's Allison Howard at defense table with Joseph Weekley several years ago.
The First 48’s Allison Howard at defense table with Joseph Weekley several years ago.

She repeatedly delayed his trial, with the agreement of both prosecution and defense, saying she was waiting for “a related matter,” the trial of Aiyana’s father Charles Jones and Chauncey Owens in the death of JeRean Blake two days before Aiyana was killed, to occur first.

 The only legally related matter, however, was the trial of Weekley’s co-defendant Allison Howard, a photographer for the “First 48” camera crew that shadowed  Detroit homicide officers and the SRT team as it investigated Blake’s killing and raided the Jones home. Howard, who took the tape of the raid to a party afterward and then lied about it, was given probation by Hathaway.

The Jones-Owens trial was delayed because Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard Skutt ruled that jail-house snitch Jay Schlenkerman would not be allowed to testify against Jones. His ruling was appealed all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court, which took months.

Jail-house "snitch" Jay Schlenkerman in latest MDOC photograph. He is currently serving at least 6 years after multiple counts of DUI and domestic abuse,
Jail-house “snitch” Jay Schlenkerman in latest MDOC photograph. He is currently serving at least 6 years after multiple counts of DUI and domestic abuse,


Moran also prosecuted Jones and Owens, in what many considered a blatant conflict of interest. An anonymous source with friends in the prosecutor’s office told VOD that many others there are upset with the way the Jones family is being treated in this matter.

Jones and Owens were finally tried earlier this year, resulting in a guilty verdict of second-degree murder for Jones and an innocent verdict on gun charges, although he was accused of murder solely on the contention that he aided and abetted Owens by giving him the gun to kill Blake. Owens was found guilty of first-degree murder. Both verdicts are being appealed.

Ironically, the Jones split verdict, accepted by Judge Skutt, was similar to the split verdict during Weekley’s first trial, which Judge Hathaway did not accept.

Hathaway did deny the defense’s request for another delay in Weekley’s trial this time. Fishman contended that the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO (date) and repeated news stories on the militarization of police in the U.S. would prejudice the jury.

 The rebellion which followed Brown’s brutal execution by officer Darren Wilson re-ignited over the past two days after a memorial to Brown was found burned down, and the Ferguson City Council delayed a decision on whether to establish a civilian police review board. Protesters and Brown’s parents said an apology by Ferguson’s mayor, scripted by a public relations firm, was insulting, and that they wanted Wilson arrested.

Prior to Sanders’ and Jones’ testimony, Jones’ son Vincent Ellis took the stand. He was staying at Jones’ home in a bedroom to one side of the living room. Fishman repeatedly asked him whether police officers who raided the home asked him “Where are the guns?” or “Where is the gun?”

Ellis said he had never had a gun at that address although he said a Facebook photo showing him with one was taken at another location.

Police found no guns or drugs found in the Jones home during the raid according to earlier testimony. Many of the family’s members have however been continually harassed and arrested by Detroit police since Weekley killed Aiyana.

It is a pattern common to the Department, which has also arrested children and relatives of other police brutality victims. They have included Arnetta Grable, who lost her son Lamar Grable to three-time killer cop Eugene Brown, and Cornell Squires, whose son was framed up on a carjacking charge by cop William Melendez, one of the chief defendants in a federal trial of 18 southwest Detroit police officers for framing up, beating and harassing witnesses.

Jones family members join other families from across the country whose loved ones were killed by police,

Jones family members join other families from across the country whose loved ones were killed by police. Arnetta Grable, who hosted the meeting, is at right.

Above: USA Today video on recent police killings across the U.S.

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