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Convicted murderer fighting for new trial after judge's affair disclosed

Posted: 10:22 PM, Apr 05, 2017
Updated: 2017-04-06 19:31:38Z

"He knows he is 100 percent innocent."

Jared Kowalski has been telling anyone who will listen that his father didn't do it.

Jerome Kowalski, now in his 70s, is serving a life sentence for double murder - found guilty of killing his brother and sister-in-law back in 2008.

"I did not commit the crime," he says.

We talked with the elder Kowalski from jail.

He and his son say a lack of DNA evidence, questions over the validity of his confession, and a judge accused of sleeping with a key witness in his trial, puts his conviction under a cloud of doubt.

That last part has legal expert Peter Henning in agreement.

"The standard by which judges are judged is appearance of impropriety," says Henning.

Put away in 2013, Kowalski's trial was overseen by Livingston County judge Theresa Brennan.

It has since been revealed, through court records, she carried on an affair with a state police lieutenant who was the lead investigator in the Kowalski case.

There is dispute over when the relationship with Lt. Sean Furlong began, but her estranged husband has phone records which claim to imply a relationship during the trial.

Brennan and Furlong have now been accused of perjuring themselves, for denying the affair.

"Detective Furlong was the one who got my father to confess," says Jared Kowalski.

He claims, with Furlong at the prosecution's table, the judge would often tip the scale in their favor.

Of the female prosecutor, he says, "A lot of times, he would be piping in her ear, she [the prosecutor] would object."

The judge would then support the objection, he says.

He adds, the defense could barely get their arguments out - arguments family friend Veronica Setera says could have swayed the jury.

"We just did not believe it," she says of the murder charges.

She says after a trial she felt was one sided, she did her own detective work.

"Whenever I could, I would just get more and more involved in the case," she says. "Backtracking where he was, what he did, talking to the neighbors."

When asked if she found holes in the case, she says, "Yes, yes."

And the ethical controversies surrounding the lead investigator and judge have Kowalski himself asking for fairness, and just maybe, a new trial.

When asked if he feels there wasn't a fair trial, he says, "Absolutely."

No one yet has officially petitioned for a new trial for Mr. Kowalski. He says he is working with an attorney.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has denied his previous attempts. But now, he says, he has renewed hope. 

"Believe me, I'm not a killer," he says.

Jared Kowalski adds, "Its not just for my father. There's other cases out there."

Legal sources tell the 7 Investigators, the subjects of other trials have been feverishly calling their attorneys, wondering if their case too was muddied by alleged judicial impropriety.

One recent morning we tried to talk to Judge Brennan about all this. She politely declined.