Nearly three years ago, I wrote this about the death of Aiyana Jones:
"I’d like to think that cases like (officer who assaulted a special-needs child having a seizure) Oglesby’s are rare exceptions. But every week there seems to be another story about someone being shot with a taser over a traffic violation, or for not responding the way the officer wanted them to. There was the paralyzed man thrown from his wheelchair by an officer in a Florida jail; the New York City cop who stopped a woman from driving her dying daughter to the hospital; the mentally handicapped teenager who was tasered to death after waving a stick around; and, in May of 2010, in another increasingly common militarized raid on a family’s home, the shooting death of seven-year-old Aiyana Jones as she lay sleeping next to her grandmother. (There is little doubt as to what happened because the 20 officers who burst into the girl’s home had brought with them a camera crew for a reality-TV show.)
"I have to believe that there was a time when people would have responded to the likes of Officer Oglesby by unceremoniously dipping him in tar, tossing a bucket of feathers over his head and casting him out from civilized society. Today he and his ilk are given "administrative leave" at best, and are soon back on the streets to endanger the rest of us. At the same time, more than half a million Americans sit in prison for the crime of using or selling substances the government disapproves of. Our nation has the highest per-capita prison population in the world by a very wide margin. Yet people like Officer Oglesby and the officers who killed Aiyana Jones do not count among the incarcerated. We are told that it is a punishable crime to ingest certain prohibited substances, a bigger crime to sell them. But, it is not a crime to shoot a seven-year-old girl in the head while she lies sleeping next to her grandmother. We have become deeply confused as to who the criminals are."
At the time, I held out a faint shadow of hope that I might be wrong about this last part, that the officers who killed Aiyana Jones might later be brought to justice and that I would have to write a little adendum to my piece, stating that in fact one or more of her killers was now behind bars. I enjoy being wrong about these things. Or I would enjoy it, if it ever happened.
Earlier this month, an appeals court upheld the dismissal of manslaughter charges against the police officer who fired the fatal shot, Officer Joseph Weekly. Says HuffPo:
"Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley has been on trial for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, 7, who was killed during a police raid in 2010. On Friday, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway granted a motion filed by Weekley's attorney to dismiss the felony charge. The trial was halted while the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed an emergency appeal of the judge's ruling. But the court denied the appeal Monday.
"There is absolutely no evidence, none, that's in the least bit credible, that Officer Weekley knowingly created a danger or, more importantly, intended to cause injury," (Weekley's attorney, Steve) Fishman said."
Think about that for a minute. Here's how Aiyana was killed:
"A little after midnight on May 16, 2010, a special police team conducting a raid in search of a murder suspect entered the Stanley-Jones home on Detroit's east side. Weekley was first through the door, a role he had previously taken on in about 100 raids. As a crew filmed for a reality show about murder investigations, another officer is said to have thrown a flash-bang grenade, temporarily blinding Weekley. Shortly after, Weekley fired the shot that killed Aiyana, who was sleeping on the couch in the front room at the time."
If throwing a flash-bang grenade and then firing randomly doesn't describe "knowingly creating a danger" to the people inside the house, then I'd be really curious to know what would. Of course the bottom line is that these incidents continue to happen to the point that they have become nearly routine, all because those who perpetrate them understand that they will never face any real accountability for their actions. If any member of the non-badge-wearing public had done this - even in the pursuit of a murder suspect - that person would be spending a very long time in prison. Officers who throw flash-bang grenades into other people's homes know that they will not face such consequences. And so it keeps happening.
"Surely, the death of a baby by a well-trained police force must be deemed unacceptable in a civilized society," said Roland Lawrence, chairman of the Justice for Aiyana Committee, following the decision. I would think so to. But then I don't believe that a civilized society can ever be founded on institutions that create a class of people who are above the laws they are meant to enforce.