The prosecution says Aiyana Stanley-Jones died because of gross negligence by Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley. His attorney said the death was a tragic accident. Regina H. Boone/Detroit Free Press
Video shot by a TV crew was entered into evidence in Wayne County Circuit Court as Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley stands trial for fatally shooting 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Detroit-- Three years after 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed in a police raid, a jury will decide whether her death was a tragic accident or criminal negligence on the part of the Detroit police officer who is accused of firing the fatal shot.
The jury composed of nine men and four women - was seated Thursday in Wayne County Circuit Court and is expected to hear opening statements this morning in the trial of Joseph Weekley. The veteran police officer is charged with felony involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm causing death.
The shooting occurred in May 2010 as police raided a home on Lillibridge, on the city's east side. They were accompanied by a reality TV crew and looking for a homicide suspect.
Prosecutors have said that Weekley entered the home before a flash-bang grenade thrown by another officer exploded. Weekley's gun went off, and the bullet struck Aiyana, prosecutors said.
A demonstration of the flash-bang grenade, a device used to create a distraction, is expected to be shown to jurors away from the courthouse during the trial.
Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Robert Moran said during jury selection last week that Weekley is accused of being negligent or grossly negligent, and that the trial is not about him intending to kill the girl.
Weekley's attorney, Steve Fishman, told jurors that accidents can happen, even if a person isn't negligent. He also talked about ranks within the police department and said an officer probably isn't the one making decisions about how a search warrant is executed.
Roland Lawrence, founder of the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, said waiting until dark to do a raid with a TV crew filming didn't need to happen.
"It's the type of tragedy that never was supposed to happen," he said."This really could have been prevented."
Weekley was part of a team and received orders from people above him, and others should be held accountable for what happened that night, Lawrence said.
Aiyana's family is hoping for fairness and justice, said Ron Scott, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. He said he expects several of Aiyana's family members to be in court this morning.
"They have not been coping too well," Scott said. "They've had physical problems, emotional problems. It's just really been devastating."
They feel for all the lives that have been lost, including that of 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake, he said.
Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, is accused of providing the gun that was used to kill Je'Rean and faces first-degree murder charges in the teen's death along with Chauncey Owens.
Owens, who is accused of killing Je'Rean over a dirty look, was the target of the raid and was captured in the upper flat of the duplex.
Weekley, who was a member of the Special Response Team during the raid, was indicted by a one-person grand jury in 2011. He had served on the SRT for about six years and was a 14-year veteran at the time of the shooting, police said previously.
A TV crew for "The First 48," a crime documentary show on the A&E cable network, was following police at the time, and Allison Howard, the principal photographer for the program, also was indicted. She is scheduled to go on trial in June, accused of perjury during an investigative subpoena and obstruction of justice.
The trial, which is expected to take a few weeks, is being overseen by Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway. She banned journalists from jury selection Wednesday over the objection of the Free Press, saying there wasn't enough space. The judge allowed news media in Thursday once the jury pool had dwindled.
Source: Detroit Free Press, Gannett News Service