Potential evidence under review in Yakutat homicide cold case

Robert Dean Kowalski. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

Attorneys in a Yakutat homicide case from 17-years ago are debating the use of emails as potential evidence.

Robert Dean Kowalski is scheduled to stand trial next month for the death of his girlfriend Sandra Perry at the Glacier Bear Lodge in July 1996.

Kowalski’s defense attorney wants the emails between investigators and prosecutors in Alaska and their counterparts in Montana turned over without omissions or redactions. Alaska prosecutors believe that the emails are ‘work product’ and do not qualify as evidence to be handed over during the discovery process.

Superior Court Judge Louis Menendez scheduled an in-camera ex parte hearing for Wednesday to hear from special prosecutor James Fayette about why the emails should be withheld. Such hearings are normally held in a closed courtroom or judge’s chambers and the opposing party is not allowed to participate.

In open court before the in-camera hearing got underway on Wednesday, public defender Eric Hedland objected to Fayette filing his pleading under seal. He also said the emails are “discoverable” or relevant since they show that Montana investigators were “bolstered by the uncharged case (in Alaska) to get a conviction there.”

Kowalski was convicted of killing his Montana girlfriend, 45-year-old Lorraine Kay Morin, in March 2008. He’s currently in custody at Lemon Creek Correctional Center as part of serving a 40-year prison sentence for Morin’s death.

It’s unclear when Judge Menendez will make a ruling on the use of the emails.

A jury trial for Kowalski in the Yakutat case has been moved to start November 4th in Juneau Superior Court.