Joseph Weekley — Detroit Police Department, MI (Charges Dismissed Jan. 30, 2015)

The case stemmed from an incident in the early morning hours of May 16, 2010 . . .

when a Detroit police SWAT team tried to serve an arrest warrant for Chauncey Owens, a suspected murderer who was wanted for the senseless killing of 17 year old Je’Rean Blake on a Detroit street days before. Alyania’s father, Charles Jones, was later implicated as the person providing Owens with the murder weapon. Owens was found guilty of First-Degree Murder and sentenced to life without parole and Jones was convicted of Second-Degree Murder for his role in the killing of the promising young student.

When the SWAT team entered the residence, they sent an experienced officer in first—Joe Weekley. But the flash grenade that was used to distract those inside brought one person to her feet and toward Officer Weekley and the entering team. In the encounter that followed, a shot was fired from Joe’s weapon—a shot that struck the innocent child, killing her.

In the days after the tragic incident, well-known activist Al Sharpton and attorney Geoffrey Fieger rushed to Detroit, helping to inflame community sentiment against the police and damaging Joe Weekley in the court of public opinion.

Officer Weekley was indicted on October 4, 2011 by a Detroit grand jury, charged with Involuntary Manslaughter and Negligent Discharge of a Firearm in the tragic death of seven year old Alyania Stanley Jones in May 2010. In Michigan, such a crime carries a potential 15 year prison sentence.

Officer Weekley faced his first trial in June 2013. With ever-changing and inconsistent statements of a key prosecution witness certainly influencing the jury and damaging the prosecution’s case, a mistrial was declared on the third day of deadlocked deliberations.

His future far from certain, Officer Weekley faces a retrial on the charges this fall. The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund continues to support Officer Weekley and his defense team. The case is testament to the perils faced by the public and the police as they must undertake incredibly dangerous missions when searching for those who kill so wantonly.

UPDATE Jan. 30, 2015: In Officer Weekley’s second trial last October, the judge dismissed the voluntary manslaughter charge for lack of evidence. Despite the prosecutor’s appeal, an appellate court quickly supported the judge’s dismissal. On Jan. 30, 2015, the final charge of careless discharge causing death or injury was dropped by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. LELDF is proud to have supported Officer Weekley’s defense during two trials and what has certainly been an immense personal toll on not only a dedicated officer but on the family of a deceased seven year old. This case points to the tremendous risks presented to both the police and the community during efforts to locate and apprehend dangerous criminals. An innocent life is lost and the life of a dedicated police officer is forever changed.