Will Convicted Child-Killer Debra Milke Win New Trial? We're Betting She Will

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Spent some of the morning in the federal courtroom of Judge Robert Broomfield, who is considering whether to order a new trial for longtime Arizona death-row inmate Debra Milke, convicted two decades ago of orchestrating the execution-style murder of her 4-year-old son Christopher.


Thumbnail image for deb milke.jpg

​If Judge Broomfield rules that Milke's alleged confession to Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate would not be admissible at a retrial, a conviction in little Christopher's 1989 murder -- one of that era's most infamous criminal cases

-- would be highly unlikely.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last September said there is "no evidence" that Milke "voluntarily, knowingly, and intelligently" waived her Miranda rights before allegedly confessing to Detective Saldate during a controversial interview that was not recorded.

Both Milke and Saldate testified yesterday.

We were unable to get there. But several people in attendance report that Milke -- now a 45-year-old white-haired woman clad in an orange prison jumpsuit (and in leg irons and handcuffed) -- acquitted herself fairly well, nervously telling the judge that she never had confessed to the detective, and had tried to assert her Miranda rights to an attorney at the outset of her critical 30-minute interview.

Saldate, who retired from the Phoenix PD years ago and currently is an elected constable serving east Phoenix, sparred hard with Milke's lead appellate lawyer, estimable veteran Michael Kimerer.

The ex-detective testified that it was his custom not to tape-record his interviews (that practice is ancient history to current PPD detectives, though, interestingly, many FBI agents still adhere to it), and that Milke never had tried to lawyer up.

The facts of Christopher's murder will be familiar to many, and we reported the sad story extensively back in the day:

On December 3, 1989, Phoenix detectives found Christopher's body in a far-northwest Phoenix desert wash. The cause of death: three hypervelocity bullets to the back of the boy's head from close range. Christopher's chewing gum was clenched between his teeth. He was curled in the fetal position.

Prosecutor Noel Levy argued at the trial that Debbie had considered motherhood an inconvenience that was interfering with her career and her romantic ambitions. She also wanted Christopher dead because he reminded her, in looks and temperament, of her hated ex-husband, Mark Milke.

Debbie used as instruments of her son's death, Levy argued, James Styers and Roger Wayne Scott -- unemployed west-side Phoenix pals. The pair also ended up on death row after separate trials, with the theory being that Styers was the triggerman and Scott the idiot friend who facilitated the evil deed.

Mark Milke, who now calls himself "Arizona," was in the Phoenix courtroom this morning, as was Debra Milke's mother, Renate Janka, and others intimately aware of the controversial case's nuances.

Private investigator Paul Huebl testified for Milke's side that he had briefly interviewed Debra on audiotape at the county jail shortly after her arrest on December 4, 1989. (Huebl did freelance work for Channel 10 in those days).

Huebl told Milke attorney Amy Nguyen that he had asked the young woman if she had confessed to killing Christopher, and she adamantly denied it.

"`I had nothing to do with the death of my son,'" was how Huebl recalled her answer.

During cross-examination by assistant state attorney general Julie Done, Huebl and the rest in attendance viewed a Channel 10 story that aired a day before Milke was sentenced to death. Narrated at the time by Huebl, it graphically described Christopher's murder.

Debra Milke sobbed loudly as Huebl spoke of the three gunshot wounds to the back of the boy's head.

The story ended with Huebl's prescient comment, "Now her hopes are in the appeals process."

Huebl told assistant attorney general Done that "[Detective] Saldate, as I could see it, was the case [against Milke]."

The private investigator said he long has believed that the Milke case deserved further investigation, noting that "if you're gonna kill someone [by executing them], you'd better be sure by God before you do it."

Done repeatedly asked Huebl if he believed in Milke's innocence, to which the PI finally answered, "Yeah, I kind of do."

The appellate court has ordered Judge Broomfield to decide by February 2 whether Debra Milke merits a new trial.






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This is a gross miscarriage of justice!  The cop had taped confessions of the men involved, but failed to record hers.  Most likely because she did not give one.  This cop has pergered himself on the stand in other cases.  Cops that do this sort of thing should be more than just disciplined by the department.  I went to the Fed Court House and sat in on one of the hearings.  This cop was lying through his teeth.  He should be put on Death Row.  This woman has suffered enough, please read all you can about the case, and urge the Attorney General to drop his appeal.  The only evidence against her is from a cop that has a record of lying.


I did time w/Debra and I just dont know what to say.

Mary Nesser
Mary Nesser


Mary Nesser
Mary Nesser

I believe that she deserves a new trial b/c there is a ture miscarriage of justice in this case. I do not persume to know rather she is guilty or not, but I do know she is intitled to a fair trial and she did not recieve one the first time around. Also, to give her the death penalty with so many doublts looming over the trial does not leave room for correcting mistakes.To put her to death without a new trial is nothing short of murder by the state government. I believe in the death penalty but not in this case. This whole thing was shady from the start. This cop should have been disiplined. After seeing the full case and studing it's content I believe she was railroaded by the entire system. Thanks Mare


If she was innocent why would she let her son go off with the 2 men that she was trying to get away from. She is guilty!!!!

Colonel C.E. Rogers
Colonel C.E. Rogers

When we speak of injustice, we must consider the greatest injustice within this case is the fact that Christopher was killed, and at such a very young age. That in itself is a waste of GOD's incredible work. And it's also an injustice that Debra Milke has been able to live as long as she has after receiving a fair Trial by a Jury of her Peers. The Jury said she was Guilty and the Judge sentenced her to the Death Penalty. So now let's get on with it. It's high time an execution date should be set and the Death Penalty carried out on Debra Milke.


Primitive people always are


 @ Tcbell1130 "You did time w/ Debra?" You don't know what to say because you didn't do time with her Dumb ass. You might have done time in the same prison but not with her.


Have you studied the entire case files, recordings, trial documents? Most of that was made up by her accusers. She trusted her boyfriend to care for the child, even her ex husband on national television said that he was glad there was somehome at home to care for his son while his ex was at work. She had no idea he was capable of killing her child or anyone for that matter. He begged to go to the mall to see Santa , she was working and allowed her boyfriend to take him as she had done a million times before. Also, the bottom line is that she was railroaded by the police, her interview was not taped, hand written notes by the detective were thrown away by him. Who does that? He then typed what he wanted and submitted it. She has denied the confession since day one. This bugus confession should not have been allowed into the trial. This case once closely studied is a gross miscarriage of justice. Please do further studies before convicting her. Saying she is guilty without a fair trial, and multiple mistakes made during trial is just an unproved assumption. Thanks

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