Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) has pledged to introduce legislation on police accountability following the dismissal of charges against a Detroit police officer who fatally shot a 7-year-old girl.
On Friday, the case was dropped against Officer Joseph Weekley in the 2010 death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was killed during a botched police raid while she was sleeping in the couch. Conyers released a statement Saturday saying the decision was unlikely to end the controversy over the incident.
“However, our community must not lose sight of the greatest tragedy of all in this situation -- the loss of a 7-year-old innocent child, Aiyana Stanley-Jones,” the congressman said. “I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones during this very difficult time.”
Conyers went on to add that the tragedy should lead toward “cultivating community-focused, smart policing," starting with basic reforms like police retraining and minimizing use of deadly force.
“The troubling circumstances of this case further exemplify the urgency of enacting legislative reforms to address the legal hurdles often faced in creating a system for better police accountability and illustrate the need for major reform in our criminal justice system,” he said. “I plan to take two steps. First, I plan to review the matter very closely. Second, I plan to continue my work on police accountability and follow through by introducing legislation.”
Weekley was first through the door shortly after midnight during the 2010 raid in search of a murder suspect, and shot Aiyana shortly after a flash-bang grenade was thrown. A television crew was filming the incident for a reality show about murder investigations, raising questions about police procedure for the raid.
The circumstances of the shooting were disputed at two trials -- Weekley maintained Aiyana’s grandmother had touched his gun, which she denied -- that both ended in a mistrial. At the second trial in October, the judge granted a motion to dismiss the involuntary manslaughter charge, leaving just the charge of careless discharge of a firearm causing death or injury, a misdemeanor that carries a 2-year maximum sentence.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Wednesday they would not seek a third trial for Weekley and called the judge’s decision to drop the manslaughter charge “unfortunate.”
In December, Conyers and two other congressmen sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder inquiring about the role the Department of Justice plays in the monitoring and training of SWAT teams and local police forces’ use of military-style equipment.