"Debra Milke to be released pending retrial," is by Michael Kiefer for the Arizona Republic.
After nearly 24 years in custody, Debra Milke will step back into the real world, probably today, until the murder charge against her is settled one way or another.
But the prosecution has hurdles to overcome before taking Milke back to trial. A judge must decide whether a contested confession can be admitted into evidence. And the Phoenix detective who allegedly obtained the confession has to agree to testify.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz ruled Thursday morning that Milke, 49, can be released on a secured bond of $250,000, pending her retrial.
Debra Milke and two accomplices, James Styers, the suspected shooter, and Roger Scott, were sent to Arizona death row for the December 1989 murder of Milke’s 4-year-old son, Christopher. They told the boy that they were taking him to see Santa Claus at the mall and instead took him to the desert and shot him in the head.
But in March, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out her conviction and death sentence, because the prosecution had failed to turn over evidence about the Phoenix police detective who claimed that Milke confessed.
Milke denied confessing; the detective, Armando Saldate, had not recorded the confession and there were no witnesses to confirm it took place.
Prosecutor Vince Imbordino asked the court to ignore the 9th Circuit decision. Mroz said she would not. Mroz noted that the withheld evidence “casts serious doubt on the validity of the defendant’s alleged confession.”
“The existing information does not make it ‘plain and clear’ ... that the defendant committed the crimes,” Mroz wrote. “The court finds that the proof is not evident or presumption great that the defendant committed the crimes charged in the indictment.”
"Judge allows release of Ariz. woman in son's death," is an updated AP report, via the Arizona Daily Star.
Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court set bond for Debra Milke at $250,000.
The judge's order Thursday says there's no direct evidence linking Milke with the death of her 4-year-old son other than a purported confession, and that the validity of that confession is in doubt.
A federal appeals court overturned Milke's conviction, ruling that the prosecution should've disclosed information about the truthfulness of the since-retired detective who testified that Milke confessed.
An earlier AP filing is, "Arizona woman on death row awaits release, retrial," by Bob Christie and Brian Skoloff, via the San Francisco Chronicle.
An Arizona woman who has spent more than two decades on death row awaited her release Friday, a day after a judge ruled that there was no direct evidence linking her to her son's death other than a purported confession to a detective whose honesty has been questioned.
Debra Milke has not been exonerated, but a judge granted her a $250,000 bond Thursday, meaning she could go free while preparing for a new trial in the case that made her one of Arizona's most reviled inmates.
Milke was convicted in the death of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, who was allegedly killed for a $5,000 insurance payout. His mother was accused of dressing the boy in his favorite outfit in December 1989 and telling him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall before handing him over to two men who took the child into the desert and shot him. She has been imprisoned since 1990.
Milke was a 25-year-old insurance company clerk when her son was killed. Now 49, she has maintained her innocence, saying she had nothing to do with the slaying.
The two men convicted in the case both remain on death row. Neither Roger Scott nor former Milke roommate James Styers testified at Milke's trial. Scott confessed during a police interrogation and led detectives to the boy's body.
Maricopa County prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty against Milke at her retrial, tentatively set for Sept. 30, and her alleged confession is at the heart of the case against her.
Police detective Armando Saldate Jr. testified that she confessed to him in a closed interrogation room. But the confession was not recorded, and doubts about Saldate's honesty arose during Milke's appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in March that prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence related to Saldate's credibility deprived Milke's attorneys of the chance to question his truthfulness before jurors.
"No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone's life or liberty," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the court.
The court noted four cases in which judges threw out confessions or indictments because Saldate lied under oath and four instances in which cases were tossed out or confessions excluded because Saldate violated the suspect's constitutional rights.
Earlier coverage of Debra Milke's case begins at the link.