ALLEGAN, Mich. - A man convicted of criminal sexual conduct has been granted a new trial in western Michigan after emails showed a judge was sharing her opinion of the case with the prosecutor’s office.
“It’s one of the most outrageous things I’ve seen in my career,” defense attorney Heath Lynch, a former federal prosecutor, told MLive.com.
An Allegan County jury last year convicted Daniel Loew of criminal sexual conduct. Judge Margaret Zuzich-Bakker sentenced him to at least 20 years in prison.
It turns out that the judge sent emails to prosecutor Myrene Koch during the trial, asking a question about the victim and offering an unflattering opinion about state police.
“This trooper didn’t do a very good investigation. Don’t they have detectives anymore?” Zuzich-Bakker said.
Koch said she wasn’t directly involved in Loew’s trial and didn’t share the judge’s opinions with an assistant prosecutor. But Lynch, citing the trial transcript, said Emily Jipp “addressed the issues raised by Judge Bakker.”
The judge declined to comment. Lynch said the communications were unethical.
Judge William Baillargeon ordered a new trial for Loew. Koch said she is considering an appeal.
“This case was decided by a jury based on the evidence presented in the courtroom,” Koch said.
The emails were obtained by Michael Villar, who challenged Koch in the August Republican primary but lost by 17 votes.