Man will stand trial on Wayne County Jail homicide

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — An Oak Park man will stand trial in the October beating death of a fellow Wayne County Jail inmate, court records show.

Carl Smelley Jr, 38, was bound over for trial Wednesday at his preliminary examination.

Carl Smelley Jr.

March:Man charged with murder in death of Wayne County inmate awaiting extradition

Judge Roberta Archer of Detroit's 36th District Court presided over the hearing. Smelley will continue on a $35,000/10% cash bond, meaning it would take $3,500 in cash to be released as the case proceeds. That bond was set at a prior hearing in April, said Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

But even if bond were posted immediately, Smelley would not be leaving jail any time soon.

Smelley is due back in court Sept. 30 for an arraignment on information.

On Oct. 23, 2019, about 3:25 a.m., Antonio James, 29, was found unresponsive in his cell. He died of blunt force trauma to the head, said the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office. There were bite marks on his left arm and the right side of his neck.

Hours earlier, Detroit police said, James had gotten into a fight with another man, who was identified as Smelley.

Authorities allege James' injuries were sustained in the fight, which took place at the jail's "division two" facility downtown.

Mark Magidson, Smelley's defense attorney, said "the facts of the case are problematic. This is a weak case on the part of the government. And there is a very strong defense."

The defense is arguing both self-defense and causation, Magidson said.

The blunt force injury to James' head happened when he hit his head after slipping on water on the cell floor, Magidson alleges, adding that inmate witnesses to the fight testified to the fall as well. 

"That was the major blunt force injury," Magidson said. 

As for the fight, Magidson said both men "squared off" voluntarily, in a small cell, surrounded by other men.

"Wayne County Jail is a dangerous place," Magidson said. "It's no picnic in there."

Magidson also argues there was a two-and-a-half hour delay between the 10 p.m. fight and the first arrival of a nurse, at about 12:30 a.m. In the time that elapsed, inmates made as much noise as they could to get medical attention for James, he said.

A witness from the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office on Wednesday wouldn't say that the delay between injury and treatment was a contributing cause of death, the defense attorney said.

"We intend to be able to show that," Magidson said.

Division two jail has two homicides in past year

Division two is the oldest of Wayne County's three adult jail facilities, and holds the inmates considered the most dangerous, Sheriff Benny Napoleon has said.

Division two is where Cpl. Bryant Searcy, an 18-year veteran of the sheriff's office, was killed earlier September in an alleged attack by inmate Deandre Williams, 28.

More:Inmate charged in fatal jail attack on Wayne Co. deputy

While Williams was kicked out of Wayne County Jail and is being held in Oakland County Jail as his case proceeds, Smelley remains at the division two facility.

Man slain was days from extradition

James was in jail to be extradited to Licking County, Ohio, where he faced three felony drug counts. One of them carried mandatory prison time if convicted, the Licking County prosecutor's office said.

But the day of James' death, the company hired to extradite him called the Wayne County Jail to alert it would be picking him up. They were informed he had just died.

"We've never seen that happen," a spokesman for Prisoner Transportation Services told The News at the time.

James faced three felony drug counts between two cases in Ohio, one requiring mandatory prison time if convicted, said the Licking County Prosecutor's Office. 

Smelley will remain jailed, for now

Smelley remains at Wayne County Jail on Thursday morning, as he serves a year for carrying a concealed weapon.

In January, Smelley pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon. In exchange, charges of felony firearm and being a felon in possession of firearms were dismissed. He was sentenced in February.

Smelley is also a named complainant in a federal class-action suit against Wayne County Jail. The lawsuit claims he has "sickle cell disease, hypertension, and diabetes."

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