In October of 1990, Debra Jean Milke was sentenced to die in Arizona for the 1989 murder of her 4-year-old son. (Notice how quickly the justice system worked back then?) She was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse, and first degree murder. The story goes that Milke dressed her son in his favorite outfit and sent him with her boyfriend to go see Santa at a local mall. He was instead taken into the desert and shot 3 times in the back of the head. Apparently, the adults were going to collect a $50,000 insurance policy from the boy’s death.
Milke’s conviction was overturned on Thursday, as there was some doubt shed on the credibility of the lead detective, Armando Saldate Jr. He apparently has, in several cases, either lied under oath or violated suspects’ Miranda rights. In this case, he insisted that no one speak to Milke until he arrived, after which he questioned her alone, behind a closed door, with no tape recording or witnesses. He then wrote a report allegedly falsifying her confession, stating she had requested the murder of her son. The statement was not signed by Milke, nor was it recorded or witnessed by anyone.
A death warrant was issued for Debra Milke in 1997, but she had not yet exhausted all her appeals, so it had to be put off. On Thursday, three judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the prosecution should have mentioned the proclivity for misconduct of the detective who was the sole witness to a murder conviction. Authorities will now be ordered to give all personnel information about the detective turned over to the defense for review. Then prosecutors will have 30 days to decide if they will retry Milke. If they don’t, she will be free.
Debra Jean Milke was the first woman on Arizona’s death row since the 1930s. Up to be the fourth woman on death row, Jodi Arias and her defense team fight to keep her from being sentenced to die. What’s up next for either of these woman is still to be determined. It is interesting, though, to look at the time frames. Maybe this is what’s wrong with the justice system. And the overturning of her conviction was not based at all on her innocence, but rather on a legal technicality. So really, even if Jodi Arias is sentenced to death, there will be years and years of endless appeals and in the end, she could still walk. Is the justice system broken?
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Photo credit: Huffington Post