Detroit policeman faces retrial in shooting death of girl in raid

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 18, 2014 7:10 AM

By Aaron Foley

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Detroit police officer charged in the shooting death of a 7-year-old girl during a raid is being retried following a mistrial last year, with opening statements expected on Thursday in a case that has sparked concerns over police use of force.

A jury failed to reach a verdict last year for Officer Joseph Weekley, who faces involuntary manslaughter charges in the 2010 death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was sleeping on a couch when officers stormed her home in search of a murder suspect, court documents said.

Weekley's gun fired, and a bullet struck Aiyana in the head. The shooting has stirred tension in Detroit, heightening ongoing concerns about police brutality and use of excessive force.

The trial begins with heightened national scrutiny on police conduct after a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9, sparking a wave of protests.

After more than a decade of monitoring excessive force issues, the Detroit Police Department began transitioning out of federal oversight last month.

Defense attorneys have maintained that Weekley didn't intentionally shoot the girl, while prosecutors have argued that he was negligent.

A camera crew, reportedly filming footage for a reality show, was also present during the raid.

Weekley testified in court last year that Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, grabbed the gun, causing it to fire accidentally, according to local media accounts. Jones testified that she was nowhere near Weekley when officers entered the home.

During the raid, police were seeking the killer of a teenage boy, Je'Rean Blake, local media accounts said. Chauncey Owens was found hiding in Aiyana's building and was sentenced to life in prison in March.

(Reporting by Aaron Foley; Editing by Brendan O'Brien, Mary Wisniewski and Sandra Maler)