DETROIT – A judge dismissed felony manslaughter and child abuse charges Thursday against a social worker and her boss who were accused of failing to protect a 3-year-old Detroit boy who died, saying there was insufficient evidence.
Judge Kenneth King made the ruling after hearing several days of testimony in 36th District Court about whether Child Protective Services worker Elaina Brown and her supervisor, Kelly Williams, should face trial on the charges in Aaron Minor's death.
"I'm not in the business of doing what's popular," said King, who noted that it wasn't clear how the boy died. "I want to do what's right."
The Wayne County prosecutor's office said in a statement that it is reviewing the decision for a possible appeal.
Brown, 24, and Williams, 47, still face misdemeanor charges of neglect of duty. A hearing on the misdemeanor charges is Jan. 12.
Prosecutors alleged that after identifying Aaron as vulnerable, Brown and Williams failed to provide a safety plan, ask police to conduct a safety check or file a juvenile court petition on Aaron's behalf. Prosecutors said they were grossly negligent.
Lawyers for the two women said they were restricted by Child Protective Services department policy from having the child removed from the home.
"The CPS workers, based on what's been put in evidence, did everything they were required to do," said Darryl Eason, one of Brown's attorneys.
The charges against the social workers were rare, but not unprecedented.
"This is a very overly broad application of the law," said attorney Deanna Kelley, who represents Williams.
Aaron's mother, Deanna Minor, was charged with murder in August after the boy's decomposing body was found in their apartment in June while she was in a hospital psychiatric unit. A judge found her incompetent to stand trial.
The medical examiner's office ruled Aaron's death a homicide but the cause wasn't known.