Man convicted in 2008 double murder wins new trial after judge's misconduct

A Michigan man convicted of killing his brother and sister-in-law in 2008 has won a new trial following allegations of misconduct against the judge who presided over his 2013 trial.

A Shiawassee County judge signed an order Tuesday vacating Jerome Kowalski’s convictions. His lawyer calls it a victory.

A report last month by a retired judge appointed to oversee misconduct complaints against Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan found violations. The report said Brennan’s concealment of a relationship with a detective who was a key investigator in Kowalski’s case was “gross misconduct.”

However, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday declined a last-minute plea to charge Brennan with crimes involving concealing the relationship, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus reported.

The decision comes after the attorney general’s office filed charges last month against Brennan for allegations she committed perjury and destroyed evidence in her divorce case. State police say she lied during a deposition about erasing data from her iPhone shortly after her ex-husband filed for divorce in 2016.

Attorney Tom Kizer, who represented Brennan’s husband in the divorce, had sent a letter to the attorney general pressing for action against Brennan for hiding her relationship with former Detective Sgt. Sean Furlong.

“People such as Judge Brennan and Det. Furlong with powerful positions and/or connections should not get a free pass,” Kizer said. “The evidence is overwhelming.”

The statute of limitations in the case expired Friday, exactly six years after Brennan denied a pre-trial motion to disqualify herself from handling the 2013 murder trial, Kizer said.

Nessel’s spokeswoman, Beth Nurenberg, said the attorney general didn’t plan to file any new charges against Brennan or Furlong.

Their relationship was brought to light last month after a retired judge appointed to oversee misconduct complaints found Brennan in violation of the state’s code of conduct for judges and campaign finance rules.

The Judicial Tenure Commission brought the misconduct complaint against Brennan, and retired judge William Giovan conducted a lengthy hearing on the evidence. Giovan called Brennan’s concealment of the relationship a “gross misconduct.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.