Detroit officer to stand trial 2nd time for unintentionally killing girl during nighttime raid

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DETROIT — A member of an elite Detroit police unit is set to stand trial again for killing a 7-year-old girl during a 2010 raid on her house that was captured on video by a reality TV crew.

Nobody alleges that Officer Joseph Weekley intended to kill Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who had been sleeping on a couch near the front door when officers burst through around midnight in search of a murder suspect. But prosecutors charged him with involuntary manslaughter because they believe he handled his submachine gun recklessly, causing the girl's death.

Jury selection starts Monday in Wayne County court, 15 months after Weekley's first trial ended with jurors unable to agree on a verdict.

Weekley was a member of Detroit's Special Response Team, which was sent to an east side neighborhood to capture a suspect in the killing of a teenager outside a convenience store.

Police threw a stun grenade through a window, emitting smoke, bright light and vibrations to confuse anyone inside. Weekley was first through the door, with a shield in one hand and a gun in the other. He claims he accidentally pulled the trigger when Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, grabbed his gun. She denies that she interfered in any way.

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.

During Weekley's first trial, a fellow officer, Shawn Stallard, testified that he didn't see anyone struggle with Weekley. He said Detroit police are trained to push away anyone who tries to grab an officer's gun or to move the weapon in a "J'' shape to keep control of it.

Weekley told jurors: "I just feel devastated and depressed. I'll never be the same, no."

On the third day of deliberations, loud voices could be heard coming from the jury room. Jurors later told the judge they couldn't reach a verdict.

Spokeswoman Maria Miller said the prosecutor's office still believes it has a strong case, which is why it decided to put Weekley on trial again.

Mark Diaz, union president of the Detroit Police Officers Association, said he was disappointed by the decision.

"I understand there is a certain part of the public that is crying foul on this. But knowing what we know, there was no malicious intent. ... He went in there to protect the citizens of Detroit from a man wanted for murder," Diaz said.


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