Man Who Was Accused of Killing His Daughter Sues Niagara and Erie Counties

12:57 PM, Jun 4, 2011   |    comments
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LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- More than 20 months after he was indicted on charges that he killed his own daughter, Jason Kirchner is now suing Erie and Niagara Counties as well as local officials for "malicious prosecution."

In May 2009, Kirchner found his 7-month-old daughter Abbigail unresponsive in her bed. She was rushed to the hospital but died. Although Niagara Falls Police investigated, found no wrongdoing and closed the case, Niagara County Assistant District Attorney Claudette Caldwell pursued the case and eventually secured the indictment.

Thursday, Kirchner filed his lawsuit against the two counties, Caldwell, former Erie County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James Woytash and his employer University at Buffalo Pathologists.

The suit alleges that the "Defendants initiated the prosecution of these charges maliciously, in bad faith and without probable cause."

The prosecution's case against Kirchner was based on Dr. Woytash's testimony. He said Abbigail suffered a head injury 4 to 6 hours before her death, that the injury was inflicted and that it caused her death. Kirchner denied that, saying Abbigail had fallen and hit her head the day before she died.

Kirchner hired an outside expert who said Dr. Woytash's methods were not "generally accepted in the scientific community". That expert determined Abbigail died from pneumonia. Other medical experts agreed that the death could have been accidental.

Days later, the new prosecutors who had been assigned the case dropped the charges against Kirchner. The judge scolded the office of the district attorney, saying "I think your office needs to carefully scrutinize your standards for indicting these cases... Look at the trouble you put Mr. Kirchner through."

"They still have no regard about it," Kirchner told 2 On Your Side last year. "It doesn't even bother them. No guilt."

Kirchner's lawsuit says Dr. Woytash's testimony "was given falsely and with reckless disregard for the truth."

We reached out to all the defendants. Most declined comment due to pending litigation.

Only the county attorney for Erie County, Jeremy Colby, made a statement. He said Kirchner's lawsuit, "is ridiculous and unfounded ... A shameless attempt to shake down the taxpayers."



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