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Bill Montgomery Scolded by Debra Milke Judge for Withholding Information

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
Photo by Matthew Hendley

Former Phoenix homicide detective Armando Saldate might be the only reason Debra Milke was on death row for more than two decades for killing her son -- a conviction that has since been overturned by a federal appeals court.

Upon hearing that Saldate was planning to refuse testifying in Milke's retrial, apparently due to concerns about incriminating himself, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery explained to the media that the statute of limitations had expired.

Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz, who's residing over the retrial, would have liked to have that information, and "finds it curious" that prosecutors never mentioned that.

See also:
-Debra Milke Granted $250K Bond, Bill Montgomery Loses Big-Time

Mroz scolded Montgomery in an order released today, after Montgomery held a press conference last week, in which he said that federal prosecutors sent him a letter last month explaining that the statute of limitations had expired for any possible charges against Saldate.

See, Saldate is the one who allegedly got Milke to confess back in 1989 to being involved in the murder of her 4-year-old son. There are no other cops who witnessed this confession, and it wasn't recorded. Milke's conviction was overturned as the appeals court ruled that the trial court didn't let Milke's defense team introduce evidence about Saldate's sketchy history as a cop.

Here's the kicker: The Arizona Republic reported on Thursday that Saldate would refuse to testify. Judge Mroz said that the confession wouldn't be allowed in the retrial if Saldate didn't testify.

All of the sudden, Montgomery calls a press conference, repeatedly saying that there's no reason Saldate shouldn't testify, and dropping that little note about federal prosecutors saying the statute of limitations expired.

If that sounds a little desperate, that's because it is. When granting bail to Milke earlier this month, Judge Mroz ruled that ". . . the Court agrees with the Ninth Circuit court's opinion that the only direct evidence linking the Defendant to the crimes is the Defendant's alleged confession to Saldate."

Problem is, Montgomery never mentioned this letter before, and prosecutors failed to bring it up in the courtroom, despite plenty of opportunities to mention it.

Here's what Mroz's order says:

The Court has read an article written by J.J. Hensley in the Arizona Republic regarding a press conference held on September 13, 2013, by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery about this case. The Court was surprised to learn that the State has received a letter from federal prosecutors in late August saying that the statute of limitations had expired on any misconduct by Saldate. The Court has had hearings in this case in which the very issue of whether Detective Saldate is being investigated by the Justice Department and whether he needed to have an attorney was discussed . . .

If the news article is accurate, then the Court finds it curious that the State did not inform this Court about the federal prosecutors' letter. The State has had numerous opportunities to inform the Court of this development, including at the September 12, 2013 hearing, which was just the day before the press conference.

Mroz ordered Montgomery to turn over the letter to the court, and also ordered one of Montgomery's lackeys to prepare a written explanation as to why prosecutors decided to not mention that, until Montgomery called the press conference -- if such a letter exists, Mroz notes.

You know, Montgomery claims to be very familiar with the decision by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning Milke's conviction.

Right there in the opinion, it says both the district court and appeals court found prosecutors to be "unconstitutionally silent" in regards to details about Saldate's history, including documentation like court orders and disciplinary history.

See a pattern?

Click here to read Mroz's opinion.

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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