LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. – A man who was sentenced to life in prison in 2008 for the deaths of his brother and sister-in-law will get a new trial due to a then-undisclosed relationship between the Livingston County judge who oversaw his case and a trooper leading the investigation.
Jerome Kowalski's convictions have been vacated by Shiawassee County Circuit Judge Matthew Stewart, and his family will find a new attorney to prepare for the trial.
Meanwhile, Kowalski is being held at the Livingston County Jail instead of a state prison.
Stewart ruled there was a "probability of actual bias" on Judge Theresa Brennan's part during Kowalski's case.
Brennan refused to remove herself from the case while having an affair with the state trooper leading the investigation, according to authorities.
Kowalski's son, Jared Kowalski, spoke over the phone with his father Tuesday night from the Livingston County Jail.
"They told him he had a half-hour to pack up and leave and get back to, you know, get ready to pack up," Jared Kowalski said. "(They said), 'A Livingston County sheriff's deputy is coming to pick you up, so be ready.'"
Jared Kowalski said he knows from experience that he shouldn't get too excited, but this is a significant step.
"It's been 10, 10 1/2 years in the making, and I've never heard him this excited and optimistic about what could happen," Jared Kowalski said.
Though Prosecutor Bill Valliencourt isn't commenting, one of the things that could happen is a plea bargain offer that allows Jerome Kowalski to trade a guilty plea and walk away with time served.
Jared Kowalski said he's already discussed it with his father, and it's a nonstarter.
"My dad, I know right away, when he heard that he shook his head no," Jared Kowalski said. "(He said), 'Absolutely not. I am an innocent man and it would be insulting if they offered me that.'"
Instead, Jared Kowalski said he and his family have uncovered new evidence they believe will show his father was at work at Selfridge National Guard Base at the time of the slayings. Jerome Kowalski worked there as a security guard.
Jerome Kowalski confessed to the crime, but the family claims it was a coerced confession and that Brennan refused to allow testimony refuting the confession.