Fieger: New autopsy suggests cover-up, shows Aiyana shot in head

Detroit Free Press
Jun. 02, 2010

Armed with diagrams and his own autopsy report, attorney Geoffrey Fieger alleged an all-out cover-up by Detroit police in last month's shooting death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

Fieger released an autopsy by Macomb County Medical Examiner Daniel Spitz, whom Fieger retained, that shows Aiyana was shot through the top of the head, not the neck as previously reported.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office confirmed Aiyana's death certificate was changed after a conversation with Spitz.

Detroit police officials did not comment Tuesday. But Fieger challenged the officers involved in the May 16 shooting on the city's east side to come forward "and tell the truth."

Fieger said Spitz's report also bolsters his theory that Officer Joseph Weekley shot Aiyana from an open front door, rather than accidentally when he made contact with the girl's grandmother inside, as police said.

David Balash, a retired firearms examiner for the Michigan State Police, was surprised by the findings.

"A bullet entering the top of the head is not something you can miss," he said of the change in the death certificate.

Autopsy could be his attempt to discredit Detroit police probeAiyana's father said he wants only one thing since he can't get his daughter back: "the truth."

Seated next to Fieger, Charles Jones uttered those two words and held up a pair of his daughter's pink-and-black sneakers.

Fieger took the shoes and set them on his conference table in front of the news media: "These were Aiyana's princess gym shoes," he said.

The shoes were among many items Fieger laid out Tuesday, the most prominent being an independent autopsy that contradicts reports that a Detroit police officer shot Aiyana through the neck during a May 16 raid on an east-side duplex where officers were looking for a slaying suspect.

Instead, Spitz determined that Weekley shot Aiyana through the top of the head. A May 21 Wayne County death certificate incorrectly listed Aiyana's cause of death as "gunshot wound to the neck."

'No time for a scuffle'Fieger contends the shot came from outside of the house and struck Aiyana while she was sleeping with her grandmother on a living room couch.

"He shot purposely," Fieger said. "I'm not suggesting that he knew what he was shooting at. I'm telling you that he pulled the trigger and fired into the house."

Detroit police spokesman John Roach declined to comment Tuesday, citing a Michigan State Police investigation into the matter.

Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee previously said the lead officer entered the home and encountered Aiyana's 46-year-old grandmother, Mertilla Jones, immediately inside the front room of the house. Godbee said there was some sort of physical contact, and Weekley's weapon discharged one round that struck 7-year-old Aiyana in the neck-head area.

Mertilla Jones said she never struggled with an officer.

"When officers entered the house, she was already shot," said Fieger, who sat in between Aiyana's parents and grandmother. "It's also clear there is no time for a scuffle."

Police sources previously told the Free Press that Weekley was first through the door. Carrying a protective shield, he encountered resistance and pushed to get inside. Jones tried to grab his gun, which fired. The girl was hit.

Jones, who was held overnight and released, said she grabbed for her granddaughter when a flash-bang grenade came through the window, not for police.

Challenging police credibilitySpitz's report, distributed at the news conference, indicates the bullet "perforates the scalp, right frontal lobe ..." and exited "the anterior surface of the neck."

Wayne County spokesman Dennis Niemiec confirmed Tuesday that the county Medical Examiner's Office changed the death certificate to indicate that Aiyana's cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head, not neck, after a conversation with Spitz.

Alan Gershel, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, said Fieger "is essentially challenging the credibility of the Detroit Police Department and their investigation."

"His expert makes it appear that the shot would have had to come from outside the house; this is inconsistent from the Detroit Police Department version," Gershel said. "Second, by virtue of his own investigation, he caused the medical examiner to change the death certificate. Those are two significant issues."

What's on tape still a mysteryFilm crews from the A&E show "The First 48" were filming with police at the time of the shooting and have turned tapes over to investigators.

Fieger has maintained that he viewed a separate video of the raid that shows the fatal shot came from the front porch when police tossed a flash-bang grenade through the front window. He also previously said the grenade device caused burns to Aiyana. Spitz's autopsy does not mention any burns.

On Tuesday, Fieger backed away from his burn claims, but added: "The entire incident has been a cover-up. The rest of the truth will come out."

He also promised to play a video of the incident for the public when he gets it. So far, he said, he has only seen a video that was not the A&E video.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: The death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones

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