Detroit man falsely accused of sex assault, killing daughter files lawsuit

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Last year a Detroit father wept in court as he faced charges for raping and killing his young child.

The case was dismissed. The accusations -- erroneous. The case turned James Saltmarshall's world upside-down. So now he's suing the police officers and medical professionals who almost sent him to prison.

The medical examiner's findings were completely different than what those doctors named in the lawsuit found. And the detectives in that case relied on those doctor findings in their investigation, not the medical examiner's. 

Saltmarshall was not available for an interview, his lawyer says he suffers from depression and PTSD.

The man falsely accused of raping and killing his 8-month-old daughter is now suing the city of Inkster and three of its police detectives as well as Garden City and Children's Hospital and three of their doctors. He claims their investigation and erroneous findings led to him being wrongly arrested and prosecuted.

Attorney Lillian Diallo is representing Saltmarshall. 

"Have you seen the vile things they have said on the internet about this man," Diallo said. "To this moment you still have people saying, 'I don't care what was said, I don't care if the charges are dismissed, he's a rapist and a murderer of children.'"

It all goes back to the Alpine Motel in Inkster on April 20, 2017. James Saltmarshall fell asleep watching a movie with 8-month-old Janiyah in his arms. He woke up only to find his daughter unresponsive.

"They arrested this man in the hospital room with his daughter, saying he was a rapist and a murderer," Diallo said. "So this is about Child Protective Services, this is about people who stepped out of their square and their box."

Doctors from Garden City and Detroit Children's Hospital concluded Janiyah was the victim of not only shaken baby syndrome, but also showed signs of rectal tears and bleeding. But the Wayne County Medical Examiner came to a drastically different conclusion -- it found Janiyah died from asphyxia because Saltmarshall rolled on top of her while sleeping. It found no evidence of skull fractures, shaken baby syndrome or rape.

FOX 2: "How can three doctors come to one conclusion and the medical examiner come to such a different conclusion?"

"Sometimes when you see people and they are poor, and African-American, you automatically villainize them," Diallo said.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office dropped all charges against Saltmarshall in June of 2017. But Diallo says the case should have never gotten that far. She says the medical examiner's report was complete around the time Saltmarshall first appeared in court.

"They could've waited for 10 hours or 12 hours and the man never would've been charged," Diallo said. "He never would have had that smear; he never would have had that stain on his name."

Lawyers for the city of Inkster and the police detectives deny Saltmarshall's claims, saying the detectives did not falsely arrest, imprison or maliciously prosecute the 23-year-old, and their investigation did not result in an unlawful deprivation of Saltmarshall's rights.

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FOX 2 reached out to the hospitals for comment and have had no response yet. But a lawyer representing Children's Hospital was quoted as saying the doctors certainly believed when they first evaluated the child that it very well could be potential abuse or non-accidental trauma. And they reported as it as they're required to do by law.

If this case goes far enough, the trial date will be in April of 2019.