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Arizona Court Upholds Death Sentence for James Styers, One of 24 Inmates on Death Row for Over 20 Years

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The Arizona Supreme Court has again upheld the death sentence of a man who murdered his girlfriend's 4-year-old son more than 20 years ago.

Styers is one of 24 inmates who's been on Arizona's death row for two decades or more.

In a 4-1 ruling today, the court has again affirmed the death sentence for James Lynn Styers, who was convicted in the 1989 murder of Christopher Milke.

According to various media reports from the time of the murder, Styers was living with his girlfriend, Debra Jean Milke, and her son when he hatched a scheme to cash in on a $5,000 insurance policy on the 4-year-old boy's life.

Debra Jean Milke, also sentenced to death for her son's murder, dressed the boy in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa at the Metrocenter mall on December 8, 1989. Instead, Styers took the boy into the desert, near 99th Avenue and Jomax Road, where he fatally shot him and left the body.

That same day, Styers reported the boy missing.

However, during an interview with police the next day, Styers admitted to killing the boy and took authorities to the desert where he'd shot him.

Debra Jean Milke later admitted to police that she'd conspired with Styers to kill the boy and collect the life-insurance money. She told detectives it would be better to have her son die than to grow up like her husband.

According to the Associated Press, Justice Andrew Hurwitz dissented in the ruling to affirm Styers death sentence, saying Styers is entitled to a new sentencing proceeding involving a jury.

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