Please see updates below re: Milke's being denied bail.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery should consider chucking the prosecutor gig, and starting a new career as a defense attorney.
Already, he makes a fine mouthpiece for Armando Saldate, the ethically-challenged former Phoenix cop, whose questionable testimony put Debra Milke on death row.
Truly, Monty sounded like he was representing Saldate during his regularly-scheduled Wednesday presser, wherein he left open the possibility of calling Saldate to testify in a retrial of Milke.
According to our county prosecutor, the recent Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruling, which tossed Milke's 1990 conviction for her supposed involvement in the murder of her 4 year-old son, was "way over the top" in its denunciation both of Saldate, and of the legal system that suppressed evidence of his wrongdoing.
See Also: Bill Montgomery Wants to Retry Debra Milke: Lying Ex-Cop Armando Saldate Monty's Major Handicap DEATH-ROW DEBBIE NO ONE WANTED TO BELIEVE SHE COULD KILL HER CHILD: SHE CONVINCED THEM SHE DID
"I think a law clerk was upset over what they read without having the entire record in front of them and drafted an opinion that a judge put their name on," cracked Monty.
"There's absolutely no evidence that prosecutors withheld any information," he asserted, later adding, "Capital cases in the Ninth Circuit take on a very unique character, and this is just one latest example of that."
Hey, federal appellate judges, what do they know about the law, right?
When those jurists blast, in their words, Saldate's "mendacity and disregard for constitutional rights," and the state for remaining "unconstitutionally silent" and not disclosing a "trove of undisclosed impeachment evidence," they're just blowing off steam, according to Montgomery.
Never mind that the appellate court appended to its opinion a chart of Saldate's sleazy doings, with dates, case numbers, descriptions, and the type of violations involved.
Monty contended that "all that stuff would have been available to the defense."
Uh, "available to the defense"? Monty must be smokin' the good ganja, despite his supposed distaste for the medical grade variety.
None of the examples of Saldate's deceit offered by the Ninth Circuit were known to the defense at the time.
The Ninth relates that it took 10 researchers working on the appeal 7,000 hours -- combing through court cases looking for Saldate's name -- to come up with the examples the defense offered the federal court.
But the county attorney's office sure knew about them. Why do you think the MCAO was so keen on blocking the defense's probes into Saldate's background?
The Ninth pointed out that the law requires the prosecution to produce material that can be used to impeach its witness' credibility, "whether or not the defendant requests any such evidence."
Milke's lawyers did subpoena that evidence back then, which the state moved to stop.
"The state trial court quashed the subpoena except for some records of Saldate's training and documents describing police department policies, which were submitted for in camera review," the Ninth Circuit states in its decision.
Indeed, the appellate court is almost as tough on the lower courts as it is on Saldate and the prosecution.
Saldate's record included instances of lying to his superiors, lying to grand juries, lying to judges, and basically treating the U.S. Constitution like a throw-pillow.
"Some of [Saldate's] misconduct wasn't disclosed until the case came to federal court," the Ninth notes. "Even today, some evidence relevant to Saldate's credibility hasn't been produced, perhaps because it's been destroyed.
"In the balance hangs the life of Milke, who has been on Arizona's death row for twenty-two years."
Monty claims some of the incriminating info on Saldate, such as Saldate's five day suspension in the early '70's for planning a tryst with a female motorist in return for him looking the other way on a warrant, might not make it into court because it happened so long ago.
"Not all that information would have been admissible at trial," said Monty.
He later stated that, "Character assassination isn't permitted as a legitimate course of impeachment."
Maybe, but I wouldn't call it "character assassination" to offer up evidence of a bad cop's bad behavior, particularly one with such an extensive list of transgressions.
Perhaps worse than Monty's lame defense of Saldate is that he will not rule out the possibility of calling convicted murderers Jim Styers and Roger Scott to testify against Milke.
Both men are on death row for driving Milke's son Christopher to a desert wash and putting three bullets in the back of the boy's head.
Another reporter asked about the irony of Monty's possibly cutting a deal with death row dwellers to put Milke back on death row.
"It may not be ironic," said Monty. "Depending on what information is provided."
Montgomery pooh-poohed the fact Milke's so-called "confession" was not recorded by Saldate (or written down for her signature, or witnessed by others), claiming that was no big deal. After all, Milke had said she did not want to be recorded.
As you might expect, Milke's attorney Michael Kimerer had a few objections to this spinmanship.
Concerning Monty's claim that not recording the interview was copacetic because Milke didn't want it recorded either, Kimerer countered that Milke was actually attempting to invoke her right to counsel.
"No, I want an attorney," is what Milke supposedly told Saldate, when he asked if she wanted their conversation taped.
"They look at the first phrase of that and say, `She didn't want it recorded,' Kimerer explained. "It doesn't pass the smell test."
Kimerer seems to have anticipated that Monty would embrace Saldate in a big, dirty bear hug.
"He has to buy into Saldate if he's going to retry [Milke], because that's the only thing that gets that evidence in, assuming he survives a motion to keep it out," said Kimerer.
And Kimerer thinks he has the ammo to suppress it: both in the Ninth Circuit's opinion, and in the concurring opinion of the Ninth's Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who called Milke's supposed admission of guilt, "an illegally-obtained confession that probably never occurred."
Kimerer believes he will be able to cross-examine Saldate using the Ninth Circuit's opinion, bringing up each nefarious deed mentioned therein.
Another part of Monty's spin went like this: what Saldate said on the stand essentially was the same as what Milke said she told Saldate.
"Yeah," Kimerer snarked, "He said she did [confess], and she said she didn't."
Sure, there was overlap, offered the attorney, but Saldate twisted Milke's word's in order to make them incriminating.
Add to all this, the possibility that Saldate might plead the Fifth if placed on the stand in a second trial. See, the Ninth Circuit forwarded the case to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Arizona, for possible investigation into Saldate.
When I asked Monty how he would feel if he was on trial and a cop with a rep like Saldate's was testifying against him, he declined to entertain my hypothetical question.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
No reason to, as we all know the answer.
UPDATE July 10: In another development Wednesday, Milke was denied bail pending trial. The case was assigned to Judge Rosa Mroz, and a status conference set for July 17. Milke will be transferred from ADC's Perryville Prison to the MCSO jail.
UPDATE July 11: Please see recent blog post on the possibility of Milke scoring bail: Debra Milke Still Has Shot at Bail, Despite Bill Montgomery's Statements