Shooting case of 7-year-old Detroit girl gets shadier

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DETROIT – Charles Jones, the father of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, was formally arraigned Wednesday in the 36th District Court on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of 17-year-old Je’rean Blake on May 14, 2010.

Jones, who was taken into custody on Tuesday, also was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, felony firearm, habitual fourth offender and perjury in a court proceeding. If convicted on the murder charge he faces a mandatory life sentence.

Multiple witnesses at the scene said that Jones, 26, was with Chauncey Owens, 35, during the shooting death of Blake. The shooting occurred over an alleged dirty look that Owens claimed Blake gave him. Owens told Blake that he would be back after exchanging stares, and returned in an SUV with Jones. Owens shot Blake in the chest in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses and drove off. Blake died at the scene.

Less than 36 hours later, Detroit Police raided a duplex on the city’s southeast side that was said to be harboring Owens. In the process of entering the house, Aiyana was accidentally shot and killed by officer Joseph Weekley as she lay sleeping on a couch. Police eventually found Owens hiding upstairs and took him into custody.

“If this testimony is true, this is really a depraved individual to take a 17-year-old’s life and help destroy the fabric of the community over a trivial, trivial dispute with some kids,” Judge Willie Lipscomb said at Owens’ arraignment on May 18, 2010. “Mr. Owens, you will never have a complete night of sleep, you will never have a good night of sleep. If you did this, you’ll be haunted for the rest of your life.”

Weekley was charged with manslaughter on Tuesday, and faces 15 years in prison if convicted. Owens pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on April 11. He will do 30 years in prison in exchange for agreeing to testify that Jones gave him the gun he used in Blake’s shooting.

“Chauncey Owens would ID Geoffrey Fieger as the gunman and me as the hitman if he thought it meant less time in jail,” said Jonathan Marko, Jones’ attorney and a member of Fieger’s law firm.

Along with Weekley, Allison Howard, a photographer and field producer for the A&E documentary series, The First 48, which was shadowing the Detroit SWAT team that night, was charged with perjury on Tuesday following an investigative subpoena. Howard, who had control over video footage that became evidence, allegedly lied at an investigative subpoena hearing.

“Because of the perjury committed by (Howard), vast resources were utilized by law enforcement to undo the lies,” said assistant Wayne County prosecutor Robert Moran. “Prosecutors had to spend exorbitant resources. It added a seven-month delay to the proceedings because of her perjury.”

Howard faces up to 15 years on the perjury count. Jones, who is being held without bond in the Wayne County Jail, is scheduled to be back in court Nov. 18 for a preliminary hearing.

In a statement, Mayor Dave Bing offered condolences and said that he respects the legal process. “On behalf of Chief (Ralph) Godbee and all of the members of the Detroit Police Department, we must use this difficult moment to continue bringing our community and Police Department together.”

However, some Detroit police officers are not happy that Weekley was charged. They are furious and directing their anger at Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“Police are wondering what side of the badge she’s on,” said officer Ronald Griffin, a 15-year veteran of DPD. “There’s no way Weekley should have been charged. It’s one thing to stand on the sideline and Monday morning quarterback, but it’s not until you get into the game you see how fast things can happen. This could possibly be a huge morale killer.”