Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Judge throws out testimony in Oceola murders

Judge Bars False Confession Experts

Brighton --Testimony alleging police coerced a false confession during a several-hour interrogation of a murder suspect will not be allowed in the trial of a Warren man accused of gunning down his brother and sister-in-law, a judge ruled today.

Jerome Kowalski, 62, is charged with two counts of open murder for the deaths of Richard Kowalski, 65, and his wife, Brenda, 58, who were found May 1, 2008, after being shot multiple times in the kitchen of their Oceola Township home, near Howell.

District Court Judge Theresa Brennan called the testimony of two expert witnesses -- a California law professor and a clinical psychiatrist -- "unreliable and irrelevant."

Defense attorney Walter Piszczatowski said he plans to appeal the ruling because his client's Sixth Amendment rights to present a proper defense were denied.

The trial, originally set for early September, has been adjourned until Oct. 13.
Richard Leo, a California law professor, testified earlier this month that he conducted several studies and wrote several research papers regarding how police interrogation techniques have led to false confessions. Many of the cases involved young or mentally ill suspects.

Livingston County Assistant Prosecutor Pamela Maas questioned the methodology used by Leo, calling his expertise, the "not-ready-for-prime-time science of false confessions."

A Michigan case allowing similar expert testimony could not be found. Leo has testified in several other states.

Judge Brennan said jurors will be able to see Jerome Kowalski's videotaped confession and the defense will be allowed to cross examine police as to the interrogation methods used.

Although Jerome Kowalski is videotaped as to saying, "I did it," attorneys claimed that there are some discrepancies in his statements and evidence at the crime scene.

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