DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Jurors were deadlocked and a judge declared a mistrial Friday for a Detroit police officer charged with recklessly handling his gun and killing a 7-year-old girl – the second time a verdict couldn’t be reached in the case.
The developments came after jurors indicated they were struggling to reach a unanimous decision in the case against Joseph Weekley, and Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway urged them to work out their differences. Weekley’s first trial ended without a verdict in June 2013.
“I’ve received a note from the jury indicating they are hopelessly deadlocked,” Hathaway said.
Seven of the 12 jurors voted to acquit Weekley of recklessly using a firearm, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum punishment of two years in prison. It was the only count remaining after Hathaway last week dismissed a felony charge of involuntary manslaughter, saying no evidence was presented to support it.
A decision about a third trial will be disclosed in court on Nov. 21, the prosecutor’s office said.
“This was an emotional case. There were tears in this room,” the jury foreman said. The judge wouldn’t allow the man – a minister – and other jurors to have their names used by news reporters.
As the jury deliberated Friday morning, Weekley released the following statement to WWJ:
No matter the outcome of any jury’s decision, I have already been devastated and my life has been ruined irreparably by the events that occurred on May 16, 2010. There has not been one single day that has gone by since that day where I have not thought about the loss of Aiyana and I will be haunted by the tragedy for the rest of my life. No family ever deserves to lose a child and I have nothing but sympathy for the family of Aiyana Jones. No parent ever deserves to lose a child regardless of the circumstances. I know in my heart and before God that what transpired that day was out of my control, but I will still have terrible grief weigh upon me every day for the rest of my life.
The victim, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, was shot in the head while she slept on a couch in May 2010. Weekley, a member of an elite police unit, was the first officer through the door during a chaotic search for a murder suspect at her home.
Weekley’s submachine gun fired seconds after a stun grenade was thrown through a window to confuse anyone inside. He didn’t testify but has insisted that he mistakenly pulled the trigger during a struggle with Mertilla Jones, the girl’s grandmother.
Aiyana’s death capped a chaotic night. With a reality TV crew outdoors, filming for A&E’s “The First 48,” Weekley and other members of Detroit’s Special Response Team raided the home in riot gear after first throwing a stun grenade through a window. It released smoke, bright light and vibrations to confuse anyone inside.
“I think that Mr. Weekley should apologize and understand that he made a mistake, and just say he made a mistake, and not go through this,” Aiyana’s uncle, Lon Dell-Fields, told reporters at the courthouse Friday. “Just apologize and say you made a mistake.”
The story made national headlines, attracting attention from civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered the eulogy at her funeral. After the incident, then-Mayor Dave Bing banned TV crews from going out with police.
Earlier this year, the man whom police were trying to find during the raid, Chauncey Owens, was sentenced to life in prison without parole after being found guilty of first-degree murder. Owens was convicted of killing a 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake outside a Detroit party store in 2010. Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, was convicted of second-degree murder in the case. According to police, Charles Jones provided the gun and Owens pulled the trigger.
Friday marked the fourth day of jury deliberations in the case.
Weekley faces up to two years in prison if he’s convicted on the gun charge.
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