Original Case Details
On May 1, 2008 Richard and Brenda Kowalski were shot and killed and later found dead at their Livingston County home. Richard’s brother, Jerome Kowalski, was named as a suspect and brought in for questioning. Battling an alcohol addiction, Jerome believed at first that he may have been guilty of committing the crimes but didn’t remember. He later realized that he could not have done it when he learned what type of gun the murder weapon was from the detectives. The detectives started to assert that Jerome’s sons were involved in the murders and threatened to bring them in for questioning. Afraid for his sons, Jerome gave the police a signed confession which he would later recant. It was later shown at trial that the time of death was in the middle of the night while Jerome was actually at work. Then-Judge Theresa Brennan refused to allow an expert witness to discuss the science behind false confessions. In 2013, Jerome Kowalski was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of Richard and Brenda Kowalski and was sentenced to life in prison by then-Judge Brennan. It was later discovered that Brennan was having an affair with the lead detective and failed to recuse herself and lied to cover the affair. She has been removed from office and criminally convicted. Due to Brennan’s misconduct, Jerome Kowalski’s conviction was vacated in January 2019, and he is now headed towards a re-trial. The new judge on the case, Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart recently ruled in favor of allowing a false confession expert to testify in the retrial.
When are Expert Witnesses Necessary?
An expert witness is a witness who can testify about a specific or specialized field that is important to the fact-finding process of a jury trial. It is important to note that an expert witness isn’t someone who actually witnessed anything directly related to the case. Rather, an expert witness is someone who can use their expert knowledge in a particular scientific, technical, or other specialized area to help determined what happened in a particular case. Expert witnesses are commonly used in DUI/OWI cases, cases that involve DNA, and even cases that involve mental health assessments. A court will have to determine a need for an expert witness and agree that the field of expertise is recognized by the court as legitimate. In the current case, at issue is the need for the court to allow a false confession expert. In denying the initial request for a false confession expert, then-Judge Brennan disallowed the defense from explaining any scientific reasoning behind why Jerome Kowalski would falsely confess to crimes as serious as murder.
What is a False Confession Expert?
In 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court decided that false confession experts can testify in specific cases, stating in their opinion that the claim of a false confession is beyond the common knowledge of an ordinary person. The Court stated that expert testimony should be allowed under Michigan Rules of Evidence rule 702 (MRE 702) as long as the testimony meets the other requirements to admit expert witness testimony under the same rule. A false confession expert can discuss the science behind police interrogation tactics which can cause an innocent suspect to doubt his memory and can be convinced for a short period of time that he may have actually committed the crime despite not actually remembering doing it. The false confession expert that Judge Stewart has allowed Kowalski in his retrial won’t be allowed to directly discuss the tactics and the confession itself in Kowalski’s case. Rather, the false confession expert will be allowed to discuss the science behind false confessions and seek to explain why people would confess to something they didn’t do. This could prove to be important for Kowalski in his retrial, as there are multiple sites on the internet that support Kowalski and believe that he is innocent of the murders, despite having confessed to them when initially questioned by police. The next court date is not currently available, as Kowalski remains in custody awaiting retrial. If you have any questions about expert witnesses for your specific case, then it is important to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one is facing a false accusation or have made a false confession, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.