Detroit's 'gag order' over Aiyana's death


all credits: The Detroit News
published: 15th August 2011

The city is seeking a protective order in a lawsuit over the shooting death of a sleeping 7-year-old girl during a Detroit Police raid on her east side home as a reality TV show filmed the incident. In 15 months since Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot in the head by a police bullet, the city has provided few documents and none of the interviews requested by lawyers who filed suit on behalf of her family two days after her May 16, 2010, death.

Court-authorized questioning of Joseph Weekly, the officer who allegedly shot the girl, has been canceled by the city five times.

Geoffrey Fieger, who represents the girl’s family, has accused the city of “stonewalling at every turn.” He has warned in repeated court filings that long delays cause memories to fade, witnesses and evidence to disappear.

The city wants the blackout because its lawyers say disclosures could hurt a criminal investigation of the incident still under way.

Michigan State Police took nine months to submit investigative findings with a request for a single criminal charge against one suspect. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who has declined to identify the charge or suspect, has considered the warrant request for five more months while launching her own probe.

Weekly’s work status was described Friday by police as “on the medically disabled list.”

Another major roadblock in the case has been the refusal of a New York-based television production company that recorded the raid for the A&E Network police reality show “The First 48” to turn over recordings that may show what happened. Kirkstall Road Enterprises Inc. claims a New York shield law lets it withhold unpublished material.

“We do not believe that Kirkstall Road has any obligation to respond to the subpoena and do not believe that the footage and other materials requested is discoverable,” the company’s lawyer wrote in a letter to Fieger in the court’s file.

It is unclear if the company also has refused to cooperate in the criminal investigation. The company and its lawyer didn’t return calls for comment. Police and the prosecutor declined to discuss evidence in the criminal case.

On Aug. 26, Wayne County Circuit Judge Daphne Means Curtis will decide whether to grant the request for a protective order to keep secret all documents and all statements made in depositions yet to be taken.

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