Remember when Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery insisted that Debra Milke, the woman whose 1990 conviction for the murder of her son was overturned by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, would not be granted bail?
"That's not going to happen," Montgomery told reporters in July, asserting that Milke "is not entitled to bail under the Arizona Constitution."
Well, Monty can eat those words. Today, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz set a secured bond for Milke, who has spent more than 22 years on death row, in the amount of $250,000.
In her just-issued order, Mroz pointed out what the Ninth already has: The only direct evidence against Milke is the testimony of former Phoenix homicide detective Armando Saldate.
And since pretty much everyone acknowledges that Saldate has a record of lying to the court, his superiors, juries, you name it, his testimony hardly is convincing.
Saldate says Milke confessed to him in 1989 about her involvement in the murder of her 4 year-old boy. But he made no recording, never got her to sign a statement, or bothered to have her interrogation witnessed by another cop.
We're just supposed to take his word for it. At the time, the jury thought that was worth something.
Now we know Saldate's word ain't worth bupkis.
"After reviewing the exhibits submitted for the [bail] hearing, 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.
"Although the State would like the Court to focus on the fact that the Defendant has already been convicted once by a jury and urged the Court to ignore the allegations against Saldate...the Court cannot do that. Much has transpired since the original trial. Back then, the jury did not have the benefit of the information against Saldate that the Ninth Circuit court ruled was Brady material.
"This Court also cannot simply ignore the Ninth Circuit court's opinion and all the information that this Court now has in its possession."
The judge followed the Arizona Constitution and the law, and found that, "the proof is not evident or presumption great that the Defendant committed the crimes charged in the Indictment."
How else could she rule given the record of Armando Saldate?
You can expect plenty of fake moral outrage to follow from commentators for the Arizona Republic and other outlets.
They will tell you that they believe Milke to be guilty. And that the judge should have followed such beliefs, instead of the law.
But ask yourselves the following questions:
Is it right for a police officer to lie someone into a death sentence, or any sentence, for that matter?
Do you want judicial decisions made on the basis of beliefs, perceptions and public prejudice or the law?
Would you have preferred Debra Milke to have been executed years ago, based on the testimony of a sleaze like Saldate?
And finally, what do you think of a prosecutor who wants so badly to retry Milke that he's willing to put a confirmed liar on the stand against her?
Imagine yourself or someone you care about in the role of the accused, and answer honestly.
Even the too-highly-paid typists at the Republic would answer the same way.
Not that they'll admit to it.
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