DETROIT (WJBK) - A Detroit man whose murder conviction was erased after he served 15 years in prison has filed a $75 million lawsuit against police.
Aaron Salter says he was wrongly accused and convicted of murder in 2003. Prosecutors agreed. Salter's lawyer, Wolf Mueller, says the police file contained a photo of another man as the suspect but it was never disclosed.
Mueller says it "would've made all the difference in the world."
Detroit's chief lawyer declined to comment Tuesday on Salter's lawsuit.
Salter was released from prison in August on his 36th birthday. He was serving a life sentence with no chance for parole.
Amazingly, the 6-foot-3, 250-pound former football player was convicted of a crime committed by 5-foot-7 150 pound man. While federal defenders battled for 10 years to undo that gross injustice, one of the best advocates on his side was the victim's sister.
"They pulled this picture out of thin air. Mind you, my client is 6'4" 250 pounds and the described shooter was 5' 7" 150 pounds," his attorney, Wolfgang Mueller, said.
Salter was just 21 when he was convicted of murdering Willie "taboo" Thomas in 2003, after a shootout in Detroit. Detroit Police detective, Donald Olson, showed the only eye witness a picture of Salter.
"I don't know how he sleeps at night," said Mueller.
By law, police can't show a single photograph to a witness - it's too suggestive. Regardless, Salter was still convicted.
"I was stunned, you really can't think when you know you just lost your life," Salter said.
He got a new chance when Kym Worthy's office started looking at his cases and determined that he was innocent.
Now he's bringing the federal lawsuit against the detective and the city of Detroit.
"The most difficult thing is that he didn't get to enjoy his life. Now he's got that chance again," said his girlfriend Kenosha Ross.
Aaron is asking the state for $730,000 for the wrong conviction. However, if this federal lawsuit is a success, he could see a lot more money.
"When you rob someone of 15 years - not by accident, this was an intentional decision by the officer - the sky could be the limit," he said.
Salter says he has started a group called Innocence Maintained to help the wrongly convicted get back on their feet.
"No I'm not bitter because I've got everything in the world to be grateful for. There's no need for me to bitter because conviction and integrity righted the wrong. I appreciate them and Kym Worthy for the work they did, because I'd probably still be in prison now."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.