Book raises concerns about key witness in Michael George trial

The attorney for retailer Michael George, who awaits another trial in the 1990 killing of his first wife, has requested an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the prosecution's key witness gave an interview to a police detective after the murder, as reported in a recently released book.

George, 50, was found guilty in March 2008 of first-degree murder in the death of Barbara George, who was shot in the head at the comic store they owned in Clinton Township, Michigan. He was sentenced to life in prison in June 2008, but less than three months later Macomb County Circuit Judge James M. Biernat set aside the verdict, citing prosecutorial misconduct and the release of new evidence that could lead the jury to believe another person was responsible for the murder. A second trial is set for Feb. 8.

In a motion filed Monday in Macomb County Circuit Court, defense attorney Carl Marlinga points to a passage in the book Dead But Not Forgotten that indicates Michael Renaud, the sole witness who placed George at the store at the time of the murder, spoke to a detective back in 1990.

Renaud testified at the first trial that he called the comic book store between 5:15 and 5:45 p.m. on July 13, 1990, and spoke to George, who sounded rushed and quickly ended the telephone conversation. Police believe Barbara George was killed shortly after 6 p.m., when Michael George claims he was asleep on his mother's sofa.

According to Dead But Not Forgotten, by former Detroit Free Press reporter Amber Hunt, Renaud spoke twice with Clinton Township police shortly after the murder about the phone call. However, notes from the interviews have never been produced. Marlinga argues that a failure to preserve those notes "would be a denial of due process which cannot be cured." He also suggests that if the interview never took place, it would be "strong evidence" that Renaud suffers from false memories "or is capable of making up stories without any basis in fact." He also cites Renaud's alleged "history of abusing a alcohol and has further history of using mind-altering drugs, including marijuana, LSD, and hallucinogenic mushrooms."

However, the 44-year-old Renaud on Tuesday told The Macomb Daily there's nothing wrong with his memory, and denied that he used any substances beyond marijuana and beer, “like every other college student I knew at the time.”

Two other motions filed Monday address the timeline provided by Renaud -- his estimate of the time of his call to the comic store hinges on when his co-worker punched in -- and testimony from the first trial about George's demeanor and actions at the funeral home and cemetery. Biernat will hear arguments on the motions on Nov. 29.

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