Death Row Freedom After 22 Years

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Death Row

After 22 years on death row in Arizona, for allegedly having her four-year-old son murdered, Debra Milke has been set free. Judge Rosa Mroz, of the Maricopa Superior Court, dismissed all charges against Milke without prejudice. The judge also had the monitoring device removed that was on her ankle. She is free from prison and death row after 22 years.

Debra Milke’s four-year-old son was excited to go see Santa Clause. Instead, he ended up in the desert with a bullet to the back of his head. Christopher loved riding his big wheel and chewing bubble gum, Milke reads from her statement, remembering her son and dealing with the emotion of her circumstances. She said that she does not know why her son was murdered, and she had nothing to do with Christopher’s murder.

An appeals court overturned Milke’s case in 2013, because the detective was discredited. Despite the dirty detective issue, prosecutors firmly believe that Milke had her son killed, but there will be no retrial. Authorities believe Milke did not want Christopher anymore, and did not want his father to have him either, so James Styers and Roger Scott took Christopher for a ride to the desert, and took care of her issue. Neither Styers nor Scott will testify against Milke. One of them was Milke’s roommate. The Arizona Court of Appeals had previously decided the case against Milke be dismissed with prejudice based on “egregious prosecutorial misconduct.” Styers and Scott are on death row for Christopher’s murder. However, after 22 years on death row, Milke is finally free. She feels vindicated.

Milke’s conviction and death sentence was based on an unrecorded confession that was supposedly made to Detective Armando Saldate, the dirty detective with a history of misconduct. She has been considered one of Saldate’s victims. Saldate testified that Debra had decided that death would be best for Christopher. However, Saldate used his Fifth Amendment right instead of testifying against her last year.

When police first spoke with Milke, she was questioned concerning ammunition that was found in her purse. The bullets were the same caliber used to kill Christopher. She commented that the bullets were in her roommates clothes and she found them while doing laundry.

While Milke was on death row, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a death warrant for her in 1997, however her execution was delayed because she had not exhausted all of her federal appeals. In a multitude of cases, retired Saldate either lied under oath or violated the rights of suspects in interrogations. This was said by the federal appeals court. Milke was freed from death row by the court of appeals after 22 years.

Milke is suing Maricopa County, and the city of Phoenix; as well as attorney Bill Montgomery, Armando Saldate (former Phoenix Police Detective), several Phoenix police officers, sergeants, lieutenants a forensic anthropologist, the City of Phoenix Crime Laboratory’s acting criminalist and the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office’s acting Assistant Chief Medical Examiner. This list includes everyone who was involved in the 1989 capital case against Milke that convicted her of having the murder of her four-year-old son, Christopher, arranged. The testimonies of these people sentenced her to death in 1990.

Christopher’s father, Arizona Milke, formerly Mike Milke, was not surprised about the decision to not retry his ex-wife. He does, however, believe that she is guilty. He will make sure all evidence against Debra Milke will be brought out in civil court. Arizona filed a civil case January 13 against Maricopa County, the city of Phoenix, the state of Arizona and Debra Milke.

By Jeanette Smith


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Photo courtesy of banspy – Flickr License

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