Brennan Grand Jury Request Again Denied
May 16, 2019
Once again, the effort by a retired local judge and an area attorney seeking a citizen’s grand jury has been denied.
Last July, former Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress and Howell attorney Tom Kizer appealed a ruling by Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh assigning an out-of-county judge to hear a request for a grand jury to investigate Judge Theresa Brennan. At issue is Brennan’s admitted relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness in the 2013 double-murder trial of Jerome Kowalski that she presided over and resulted in his conviction and life sentence.
The chief reason cited by Judge Cavanaugh in her decision to send the case out of the county was Judge David Reader’s appointment of Kizer as the grand jury’s Special Prosecutor, questioning Kizer’s impartiality as he is a long-time critic of Judge Brennan and had served as the attorney for Brennan’s ex-husband in their 2017 divorce. Burress and Kizer took their case eventually to the Michigan Supreme Court, which in April declined to hear the motion. They then requested Judge John Maurer of Eaton County to empanel the Citizens Grand Jury as he was appointed by the Supreme Court Administrator's Office to hear the matter.
But in a May 3rd decision, Judge Maurer declined the motion, noting that the purpose of a grand jury is already accomplished as Judge Brennan has been charged criminally by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office for her actions and is facing potential removal from the bench via a complaint from the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. In response, the pair issued a statement noting that the actions which have damaged the reputation of Livingston County “did not occur in a vacuum, or by one person alone. Yet only Judge Brennan has been targeted by the Attorney General” and that, “the anemic prosecutorial effort” against her is, “insufficient, and the Citizens of Livingston County are being shortchanged by the system.” They finished by saying, “We fully expected that there would be pushback to the filing of the petition for a Grand Jury investigation, but never expected that it would come from the court system itself” and that they will consider their options, “from this point forward.” Their full statement is posted below as is Judge Maurer's decision.
A decision is expected next month on whether Brennan, who has been suspended with pay from her duties, should stand trial on several felony counts for lying under oath and tampering with evidence in relation to her divorce trial. Meanwhile, Kowalski’s convictions have since been vacated and a new trial ordered, which is set to begin September 23rd. (JK)