- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

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, a surprising development that was immediately appealed to a higher court.

The decision 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.

Prosecutor Rob Moran, however, said Fishman was raising the wrong legal threshold. He said Weekley failed to follow ordinary care and “as a result … someone was killed.”

But 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.”

Jurors were sent home for the day while the prosecutor’s office scrambled to file an emergency appeal. By late afternoon, the Michigan appeals court suspended the trial until it can take a look at the dispute.

The trial was supposed to resume Monday with Weekley still facing 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.

It is Weekley’s second trial after a jury last year couldn’t reach a verdict.

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 https://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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