Detroit policeman’s negligence led to girl’s death: prosecutors

DETROIT, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Prosecutors told a Detroit jury on Thursday that a police officer’s willful negligence led to the 2010 shooting death of a sleeping 7-year-old girl during a raid – a case that sparked concerns about use of police force.

In opening statements in the retrial of Joseph Weekley, who is accused of involuntary manslaughter and negligent use of a firearm in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, his attorney said his gun went off when the child’s grandmother grabbed it.

“Mertilla Jones claims that this officer came in the house, walked up and assassinated (Aiyana),” defense attorney Steve Fishman said, referring to the grandmother. “That is a complete and total lie.”

A bullet struck Aiyana in the head. The shooting stirred protests and tension in Detroit, heightening concerns about police brutality and use of excessive force.

Prosecutors told jurors during opening statements that Weekley’s gun could not have discharged accidentally.

“The gun cannot and will not fire without pulling the trigger,” said Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran. “This gun cannot go off by itself.”

A jury failed to reach a verdict last year in Weekley’s case. The retrial begins with heightened national scrutiny on police conduct after a white officer in Ferguson, Missouri, fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9, sparking a wave of protests.

After more than a decade of monitoring excessive force issues, the Detroit Police Department began transitioning out of federal oversight last month.

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