Prosecutors lose appeal in Detroit officer's trial

AP News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2014 6:19 PM

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan's appeals court on Monday refused to reverse a decision that dismissed a manslaughter charge against a Detroit police officer who killed a 7-year-old girl during a raid.

In a brief order, a three-judge panel said it was barred from intervening.

Officer Joseph Weekley mistakenly pulled the trigger and killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a chaotic search for a murder suspect in 2010 that was recorded by a reality TV crew. Wayne County Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway last week dismissed the most serious charge, involuntary manslaughter, after prosecutors finished presenting evidence.

Hathaway said there was no evidence that Weekley acted willfully; prosecutors said the judge was using the wrong legal standard.

Appeals Judge Michael Talbot agreed that Hathaway had erred, but he also agreed with his colleagues on the panel that her decision must stand. Once a defendant is acquitted, that ruling can't be upset, under a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case that coincidentally involved a Michigan trial.

The appeals court later Monday rejected a request for reconsideration. All that's left at Weekley's trial is a misdemeanor charge of reckless discharge of a firearm.

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.

Prosecutor Rob Moran last week told the trial judge that he never suggested Weekley intended to kill Aiyana. He said he had to show that the officer ignored his training.

A spokesman for a group that pressed for charges in Aiyana's death was disappointed in the latest development.

"Aiyana's family remains devastated, and this ruling ... does not help to ease their pain," Roland Lawrence said.

The raid was recorded for a police reality TV show, "The First 48," but there was no footage from inside the house. The target, Chauncey Owens, eventually was arrested and convicted of killing a 17-year-old boy. Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, was convicted of aiding Owens.

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