DETROIT (AP) — A judge on Friday dismissed the most serious charge against a Detroit police officer who fatally shot a 7-year-old girl during a raid, but the trial also was halted to give prosecutors an opportunity to immediately appeal.
The surprising development came after prosecutors finished presenting their case against Joseph Weekley, who mistakenly pulled the trigger and killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a chaotic search for a murder suspect in 2010.
Defense attorney Steve Fishman said an involuntary manslaughter charge should be dismissed because prosecutors had failed to show that Weekley intentionally created a danger that caused Aiyana's death.
"There is absolutely no evidence, none, that's in the least bit credible," argued Fishman, who repeatedly has called Aiyana's death a tragic accident, not a crime.
Wayne County Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway agreed to dismiss the felony.
"I don't see the evidence that (Weekley) willfully disregarded the results to others," Hathaway said. "The entire trial has basically been about the carelessness of the defendant, based on his skills. If I am going to err, I'm going to err on the side of the defense."
Weekley still is charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, a misdemeanor. It's his second trial after a jury last year couldn't reach a verdict.
Weekley, a member of an elite police unit, insists he accidentally pulled the trigger when Aiyana's grandmother grabbed his gun as officers burst through the door of her home. Mertilla Jones denied any interference.
The prosecutor's office said it planned to appeal Hathaway's decision. The trial on the lesser charge resumes Monday.
A spokesman for a group that pressed for charges in Aiyana's death accused the judge of misconduct. Roland Lawrence said Hathaway was "circumventing the role of the jury."
Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap