Debra Milke's Overturned Conviction for Killing Son in '89 to Be Appealed by AZ Attorney General Tom Horne

Categories: Death Row

milke mug shot.JPG
Image: Arizona Department of Corrections
Debra Milke

Debra Milke, on Death Row since her 1990 conviction for conspiring to have her 4-year-old son killed in 1989, won't be released from prison anytime soon.

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Milke's conviction yesterday, raising the possibility that she could be set free in 30 days. But today, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announced he definitely will appeal the court's decision, which means Milke isn't going anywhere -- for now.

See also: Debra Milke's Convictions Overturned in Son's Murder, After Two Decades on Death Row

See also: Debbie Milke Was Convicted of Murdering Her Own Child, Now She May Win Her Freedom (or, At Least, a New Trial)

Horne's office released an e-mail today stating:

We will be appealing this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Court takes the appeal, I will argue it personally as I have done in two previous cases over the past five months. In my last case, the Supreme Court accepted my argument and overruled the Ninth Circuit's decision unanimously. In this case, Ms. Milke was found to have arranged the killing of her own son, a four-year-old toddler, because he was too much of a burden and interfering with her life. After dressing him up and telling him he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus, Milke was convicted of sending her young son off to be shot, execution style, in a desert wash. This is a horrible crime. The Ninth Circuit's decision needs to be reversed, and justice for Christopher needs to be served.


The Ninth's decision centers on the credibility of a key witness in the case, former Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate. The cop had claimed that Milke waived her Miranda rights and confessed to the conspiracy to have Christopher killed by two male acquaintances, Jim Styers and Roger Scott (who were also sentenced to death row). Allegations later surfaced that the cop had lied to grand juries previously and somehow had managed to extract confessions from unconscious suspects.

Milke was never accused of actually carrying out the crime. Scott, who cracked after many hours of interrogation, told police that he and Styers took the kid to Peter Piper Pizza, then told him they were going to look for snake holes in the desert. In a desert wash at 99th Avenue and Happy Valley Road, Styers fired three bullets into the back of Christopher's head.

Milke was implicated in the plot by Scott, as a 1991 New Times article describes:


Debbie had promised Styers most of the $5,000 from a life insurance policy on Christopher, Scott confessed. Scott was to be paid $250 for driving the getaway car. The men left Christopher's body where it would eventually be discovered.

Debra Milke in 1991 during interviews with the New Times.

The 1991 article describes how Milke's seemingly cold-hearted personality on the witness stand helped convince the jury she was guilty. Detective Saldate didn't record Milke's alleged confession, but he testified that she told him, "I just made a bad judgment call. I'm just an emotionally troubled 25-year-old girl who needs help in dealing with her problems."

Without Milke's involvement as a potential motive for Styers and Scott, the men's murder of a 4-year-old doesn't make much sense.

But if the case goes to another jury and Detective Saldate's testimony can't be used, an implied motive and the testimony of Scott may or may not be enough to re-convict Milke.

The first paragraph of Horne's statement suggests the state Attorney General knows how to steer the U.S. Supreme Court his way. If he's right about that, Milke won't get her second chance at freedom.


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40 comments
scubadude1960
scubadude1960

Tom Horne and Armando Saldate should be put on death row for 20 years and then executed. Along with all the politicians who make our corrupt system possible.

EleanorRigby
EleanorRigby

Even though it's not a deathrow case, just the discussion of innocent people who have been rotting away in prison always brings me back to the Courtney Bisbee case. It never ceases to amaze me all the people who know damn well she is innocent, from the top down, and yet no one will help her. Even her accuser and his family have now come forward to admit that they lied, and those lies were the only shred of evidence needed to put that poor woman away for years. If you have ever met Courtneys mom, just talking to her for a few minutes, you begin to understand how it has impacted that entire family. She has devoted her entire life to helping others who's lives have been completely destroyed by AZ's unjustice system.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Maricopa County prosecutor at the time, Noel Levy, also sent an innocent man, Ray Krone, to death row. Krone was exonerated 10 years ago. No exonerations since?? 

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

The awesome power of the prosecutors, with NO oversight, NO accountability and absolute immunity must be stopped. The balance of power in the justice system is stacked for them and none for the people /taxpayers who pay their salaries. Who wouldn't like to have this job?

.. Pat me on the back, pat me on the back. I won cases at the U.S. Supreme Court! Wow! Are we impressed that the AGs won mortgage foreclosure settlements?

Arizona won $90 million, while Horne passed $50,000,000 over to the governor and the legislators for the alleged "state budget" rather than the homeowners it was intended for? Oh, really?

The Governor (chuck coughin / CCA / High Ground lobbyists) and the legislators are the benefactors of the  "money-grab" for the private prison corporations (CCA) to build 2,000 new prison beds Arizona does NOT need -- are we, the taxpayers and people proud of that? This is disturbing and puts ALL at risk in AZ.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Corrupt law enforcement / sheriff sent innocent man to death row. This is who belongs in prison but is receiving his lucrative pension instead. FL = AZ - Sunbelt Injustice...


http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-02-25/news/fl-frank-lee-smith-hearing-20130225_1_frank-lee-smith-virginia-smith-anthony-caravella
Trial set in case accusing BSO of framing manFebruary 25, 2013|By Jon Burstein, Sun Sentinel

A civil lawsuit accusing Broward Sheriff's detectives of framing a Fort Lauderdale man for a murder that sent him to Florida's Death Row will go to trial this summer, a Broward judge ordered Monday.

The sister of Frank Lee Smith brought the lawsuit in September 2002, two years after DNA evidence cleared her brother of raping and murdering an 8-year-old Fort Lauderdale girl. The exoneration came too late for Smith, 52, who died of pancreatic cancer just months before the DNA test.

He was the first person in the nation to be exonerated by DNA after dying in prison.

Attorneys for Smith's sister argued at a Monday court hearing that Smith was one of at least three innocent men who spent years behind bars after Broward Sheriff's detectives arrested them in the 1980s for murders they didn't commit. Virginia Smith's lawsuit contends rogue homicide detectives faked or coerced incriminating statements from mentally ill or mentally-challenged men to solve cases.

James Green, one of Virginia Smith's attorneys, indicated he hopes to tell the jury about the other wrongful convictions, including the case of Anthony Caravella, who spent more than 25 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

Caravella is suing a former Broward Sheriff's detective and three former Miramar police officers in a trial under way at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale." (excerpt)

IdontRecall
IdontRecall

What is this crminal doing still out of prison.........Fng Horny Toad should be in prison for His hit and run since it was witnessed by two FBI agents, what the fuck is wrong? He wants the Law to be upholded for everybody else but not for Him. He should MAN UP and face the consequences instead of "hiding" under his position as AG. Fgn Wabbit Hunter.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

NACDL President Steven D. Benjamin nails it in the National Law Journal's feature story on the 50th Anniversary of Gideon. 

"'We've failed tragically to realize [Gideon's] promise because of the unwillingness of state and local governments to adequately fund the defense function,' said Steven Benjamin, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. 'The system is broken. It can't be relied upon to protect innocent people from conviction.'" 

marcy
marcy

It isn't clear that Milke is innocent but it's crystal clear that Saldate was an accomplished liar, not surprising for a cop because all cops lie.

The most grievous error any jury can make is to assume that a cop is more credible than a dime bag junkie.  Cops lie for a living and do so with such frequency that it is entirely possible that they are incapable of telling the difference between what they say and the truth.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

There are many innocent men and women in prison. Arizona's justice system refuses to recognize that they make mistakes, fail to do their jobs, have politicized justice for financial and career gain, guilty of over-zealous prosecution and simply chose to ignore it all. This is a problem that must be corrected by the Arizona Courts, not simply "rubber-stamped" through the Arizona Courts (SOP and established precedent) and tossed into the Federal Courts.

It's time for the prosecutors to "right the wrongs", do their jobs as ministers of justice -- seeking the truth. The innocent women have been all but ignored and discarded to never be heard from again.

NY Innocence Project | Maddy DeLone | MAKERS

http://www.makers.com/maddy-delone?icid=maing-grid7|maing12|dl19|sec1_lnk3&pLid=283874

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

I especially liked Chief Judge Kozinski’s statements.

“No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone’s life or liberty.”

Because these things happen every day in Arizona we can deduce that Arizona is not a civilized society. I also liked this statement from him:

“Could the people of Arizona feel confident in taking Milke’s life when the only thread on which her conviction hangs is the word of a policeman with a record of dishonesty and disrespect for the law?”

They do this kind every day in Arizona.  

"What I find the most amazing is that it took 22 years and 7 courts for this to get fixed. Milke was just one court away from being completely S.O.L. It also appears that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is about the only place  where you can still find justice, because federal district court turned her down too."

"I think the press and the public has confused the word liberal with the word JUSTICE."

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

COUNSEL

Lori L. Voepel (argued), Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C., Phoenix, Arizona; Michael D. Kimerer, Kimerer & Derrick, P.C., Phoenix, Arizona, for Petitioner-Appellant. 

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Concerned people for fair justice and those who care only about their money and tax dollars at work, as a civic duty should read the 60 page 9th Circuit Opinion. 

Arizona's justice system on display for the world to see.  22 years of "rubber-stamping" through the Arizona Courts with no one doing their jobs except getting rich off "high-profile" cases. Truly shameful. 


Milke v Ryan | 9th Circuit Opinion 

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

"Smart on Crime" saves taxpayers scarce dollars. As more and more innocent people have come off Death Row, that causes great concern about the integrity of the justice system, while wasting hundreds of millions of $$$'s while the states play God with peoples' lives. And the Governors and AG's / prosecutors who have politicized the Death Penalty for their political gain at once again, at the expense of the taxpayers who they show total and complete disregard for.

sarum
sarum

http://www.crimefilenews.com/2010/11/whats-ahead-for-debra-milke-on-arizonas.html

http://www.debbiemilke.com/

http://www.sacbee.com/2013/03/15/5266624/arizona-woman-reviled-for-sons.html

"On Monday, I sat next to Swiss documentary filmmaker Jacques Secretan when a shackled, gray-haired Milke was escorted into the courtroom.

"In all these years, this is her first time out of death row," whispered Secretan, who believes that Milke is innocent."

https://sites.google.com/site/chilrenstempletepages/God-Bless-Our-Lost-Angels/4-year-old-christopher-milke

MandyMountain
MandyMountain

" If the Court takes the appeal, I will argue it personally as I have done in two previous cases over the past five months." Sounds like she'll beat the rap. Horne is such an egomaniac.  She's been in the slammer for well over two decades, though. Guilty or not she's done some serious time.

gerry_c
gerry_c

Horne has an ego at big as AARPaio.  This is an area of law that I don't believe he has aggressively practiced.  Better to hire someone that knows where to step.

david_saint01
david_saint01 topcommenter

lol nice to see Horne taking time from his affair and hit and run case to actually do his job for once! Ditch the arrogance though tom, lol its not a certain victory..though, i wont mind if he gets egg on his face. I dont know enough about the case to form an opinion on guilt or innocence, but from what I have read thus far the detective was known to be dirty, and it hinges on his credibility...so it doesnt look good. 

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Maricopa County prosecutor at the time, Noel Levy, also sent an innocent man, Ray Krone, to death row. Krone was exonerated 10 years ago. No exonerations since??

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@EleanorRigby Judge frees California man who served 13 years in prison for ‘three strikes’ conviction overturned in 2009

Daniel Larsen, 45, "innocent" and free Tuesday, March 19th. Following years of appeal, federal Judge Suzanne Segal ordered Daniel Larsen, 45, ‘innocent’ and free Tuesday, capping a petition campaign called the California Innocence Project. Larsen joined his wife as he left prison and declared, ‘I feel good.’
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/daniel-larsen-innocent-california-prisoner-freed-13-years-behind-bars-article-1.1293456

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@EleanorRigby

David Ranta Freed After More Than 2 Decades in PrisonPosted on March 21, 2013 by Phil Locke 

New York (CNN) — A New York man has been freed after serving more than two decades in prison for the killing of a rabbi during a botched diamond heist, with a judge calling his conviction a miscarriage of justice.

Interestingly, the police are “standing by” the arrest, and deny any claims that there was any “witness coaching.”

Read the full story here.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

@EleanorRigbyCenter for Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Law Focuses onWRONGFUL CONVICTIONS OF WOMEN | Wrongful Convictions Blog

http://wrongfulconvictionsblog.org/2013/03/18/center-on-wrongful-convictions-at-northwestern-law-focuses-on-wrongful-convictions-of-women/

9th Circuit Opinion Milke case - Reversed conviction and sentence (60 pgs)http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/03/14/07-99001 web - corrected.pdf

Destruction of Innocence: How Coerced Testimony & Confessions Harm Children, Families and Communities for Decades After the Wrongful Convictions Occur:  March 2013 white paper by the National Center for Reason and Justice www.NCRJ.org

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

These officials are playing God with peoples' lives using 'high-profile" cases to do it. Tossing the U.S. Constitution out the window and taking away an individual's rights by those who have corrupted the justice system is shameful.  

Time for TERM LIMITS for County and State Prosecutors and County Sheriffs. They have bloated the criminal justice system, the county and state courts, the jails, detention centers and prisons destroying innocent lives and wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers $$$$'s. 

Wake up folks. This is not about this mother and her murdered child but about how to use them for financial and political gain. Arizona does NOT care about mothers or their children. Get real.


david_saint01
david_saint01 topcommenter

@truthseekeraz lol that would be too much work for him, and wouldnt score him the big political victory hes looking for...

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/fl-tony-fantigrassi-bso-sued-20130314,0,6758319.story


Caravella case not deputy's first link to wrongful convictions

Former Broward Sheriff's Major Tony Fantigrassi is being sued in federal court in Fort Lauderdale. Anthony Caravella's attorney said Fantigrassi was involved in coercing a false confession from the 15-year-old Miramar teen, who had an IQ of 67. Caravella spent nearly 26 years in prison before DNA testing set him free. (Susan Stocker / February 19, 2013)

By Paula McMahon, Sun Sentine

9:41 p.m. EDTMarch 14, 2013

When Anthony Caravella went to take a lie-detector test with Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Tony Fantigrassi in 1983, the mentally challenged 15-year-old was considered a witness to a homicide.

Four hours later, he was a suspect. The teen had confessed, for the first time, to being involved in the crime — a key turning point in the MiramarPolice Department’s investigation that eventually led to Caravella being convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

On Thursday, Fantigrassi took the witness stand to defend himself in a civil suit filed on behalf of Caravella, who was imprisoned for more than 25 years before DNA tests overturned his conviction in the rape and murder of a Miramar woman. Caravella, now 44, is seeking compensation from Fantigrassi, as well as the city of Miramar, the Sheriff’s Office, and three retired Miramar detectives.

Jurors will only hear what Fantigrassi did in the Caravella case, but over the years he was a key player in some of Broward’s most notorious wrongful conviction cases. He was also linked to a controversy over a wrongly worded Miranda rights warning form used for years in Broward. And he retired under a cloud in 2005 during the Sheriff’s Office faked crime statistics scandal.

“When the same people are involved in the same horrendous results, one cannot think it’s a coincidence,” said Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein when asked about Fantigrassi’s record.

“Anybody can make a mistake. When you have some of the most horrendous results in Broward County history and the same people are involved – make no mistake, it wasn’t a mistake. It wasn’t a coincidence, it was the design and the intent of the people who brought you this [the Caravella case] and other horror stories,” Finkelstein said.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

A long history and pattern of rights violations.


Maricopa County prosecutor at the time, Noel Levy, also sent an innocent man, Ray Krone, to death row. Krone was exonerated 10 years ago. No exonerations since??

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

.. Pat me on the back, pat me on the back. I won cases at the U.S. Supreme Court! Wow! Are we impressed that the AGs won mortgage foreclosure settlements?

Arizona won $90 million, while Horne passed $50,000,000 over to the governor and the legislators for the alleged "state budget" rather than the homeowners it was intended for? Oh, really?

The Governor (chuck coughin / CCA / High Ground lobbyists) and the legislators are the benefactors of the  "money-grab" for the private prison corporations (CCA) to build 2,000 new prison beds Arizona does NOT need -- are we, the taxpayers and people proud of that? This is disturbing and puts ALL at risk in AZ. 

Bnbk
Bnbk

@MandyMountain Of course he will,anything to divert attention away from his misdeeds.

TaxpayingVoter
TaxpayingVoter

@gerry_c As far as I can tell, Horne is the biggest idiot in a land of idiots that I've come across in a while.

Why in HELL would he try to interfere in such a case while trying to look less like the asshole he is in defending his OWN issues?  It just seems he's doing his best to make himself look worse.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Time to END THE DEATH PENALTY.  NO man should be playing God with peoples' lives.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Pure evil. This is who belongs in prison along with those who have operated like this for decades. 

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

.. a long history / pattern of civil rights violations and abuse of power demands investigation in ALL cases where people are sent to prison. 

sarum
sarum

@truthseekeraz "Milke may well be guilty, even if Saldate made up her

confession out of whole cloth. After all, it’s hard to

understand what reason Styers and Scott would have had for

killing a four-year-old boy. Then again, what reason would

they have to protect her if they know she’s guilty?"

from your above linked document

I believe this guy's explanation on his site:  http://www.crimefilenews.com/2010/11/whats-ahead-for-debra-milke-on-arizonas.html

"Styers had suggested that they (he and Milke) could move in an apartment together and he would be Christopher’s day care provider. There was no romance other than Styer’s designs that were always rebuffed by Milke. They had different bedrooms. Styers had the use of Milke’s car during the day and as he consumed anything found inside the refrigerator. This was far from the best arrangement for Milke and her son but few single moms have ideal lives.

One day Milke had finally found and new and better paying job at the John Alden Life Insurance Company across town in Tempe, AZ. She could now afford to move into her own two bedroom apartment and obtained licensed daycare for her son.

This move would turn Styer’s world upside down. No more use of the car, or other freeloading off of Milke. Any chance Styer’s had to develop romance with Milke was fading fast."



ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

Now we have the very, very "high-profile" case of Debra Milke, to use as a political pawn for political and financial gain. How sick and disturbing. 

The prosecutors are the "ministers of justice". Their job is to seek the truth and fair justice. 

This is precisely why Arizona needs the Amendment ER 3.8 to be added. See Arizona Supreme Court R-11-0033.

ConcernedCitizenAZ
ConcernedCitizenAZ topcommenter

"It’s a serious critique of the criminal justice system. In taking up Ray’s cause, Rix embarks on an odyssey through the courts, helps Ray get another trial and then witnesses an incredible second guilty verdict. Rix’s initial naïveté in believing that “the system works” evaporates as he comes to see Bob Dylan’s rhyme ring true: “To see him obviously framed / couldn’t help but make me feel ashamed to live in a land where justice is a game.”

“Jim Rix takes us on a remarkable journey inside an American tragedy. He helped win his cousin’s freedom from Death Row and now he documents the chain of errors that put him there. The story will chill your belief in the American justice system....” Bill Kurtis, producer of the A&E programs “Investigative Reports” and “Cold Case Files” 

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