Arizona Supreme Court Won't Allow Retrial of Debra Milke
Arizona Supreme Court
Arizona's highest court won't be overturning a decision to prevent putting Debra Milke on trial again for the murder of her 4-year-old son.
Milke spent 23 years on Arizona's death row for the murder of her son Christopher, before finally being released in 2013 after a federal appeals court ruled that the state unconstitutionally withheld information about the key witness in the case.
Although the Maricopa County Attorney's Office intended to again charge Milke, a state court prevented that from happening, saying, "No lesser sanction would rehabilitate the damage done to the integrity of the justice system."
From the opinion of the Arizona Court of Appeals.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery appealed this decision to the Arizona Supreme Court, and denied Montgomery's motions (which also included an attempt to compel the state's star witness, former Phoenix Detective Armando Saldate, to testify).
The Supreme Court did not comment on the orders.
"The denial of our petition for review is a dark day for Arizona's criminal justice system," County Attorney Montgomery says in a statement. "By refusing to review the Arizona Court of Appeals unprecedented expansion of Double Jeopardy and adopting the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal's misconstruction of the case history, aided and abetted by selective citations to the record by the Defendant, the Arizona Supreme Court has deprived crime victims, particularly Christopher Milke, of their rights to fairness, due process and justice." (See the bottom of this post for more information on the alleged "misconstruction of the case history.")
Milke's 4-year-old son, Christopher, was killed in December 1989 after her roommate, James Styers, and his friend, Roger Scott, said they were taking the boy to see Santa at the Metrocenter mall.
Scott ended up admitting to police that he went with Styers as they instead took the boy to a wash near 99th Avenue and Jomax Road, and Styers fatally shot the boy. Styers was under the impression that he would receive some of Christopher's $5,000 insurance policy.
Although Milke wasn't alleged to have been physically involved in the murder, but Saldate claimed that Milke confessed to setting up the whole plot to murder Christopher.
Yet Milke insisted that she never confessed, and the state never disclosed during the trial that Saldate had a troubling record.
According to court documents, Saldate had been found to have lied or otherwise "misled" grand juries on multiple occasions, and twice interrogated suspects who were in the process of receiving medical care for severe injuries. In another incident, Saldate was disciplined for "making advances and taking liberties" with a female motorist, and lied about that, too.
Jurors knew none of this when they convicted Milke in 1990 of first-degree murder.
Saldate testified at the trial that Milke had confessed to him, although he didn't record the confession, and Milke denied the supposed confession.
Milke just recently filed a lawsuit against several local entities for the 23 years she spent on death row before finally being freed.
After yesterday's Supreme Court orders, which Montgomery alleged were based on the lower court's "misconstruction of the case history," the county attorney's office also released the state's interpretation of Saldate's history, which can be found here. The appeals court decision can be found here.
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