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MI Supreme Court: Jury can decide if confession was false

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a murder trial on hold since 2009 will go forward without expert testimony on the phenomenon of “false confessions."

A man charged with murder in Livingston County says he is innocent of killing his brother and his sister-in-law – even though he confessed to the crimes. 

Jerome Kowalski says he was denied the right to present a defense to charges he murdered his brother and his sister-in-law in an argument over money. Kowalski confessed to the murders after multiple interrogations. But he says he is, in fact, innocent and he was compelled to make a false confession.

A lower court judge would not allow expert testimony on the phenomenon of false confessions. She said could make it seem like the expert was saying Kowalski’s confession was false.

The Supreme Court agreed. It said lawyers may question police officers on their interrogation methods, and the jury can decide on its own whether a confession was false or coerced.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.