PHOENIX — An Arizona woman awaiting retrial on charges she had a part in
the murder of her 4-year-old son in 1989 asked a court Wednesday to disqualify
the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the case.
A 14-page motion filed by Debra Jean Milke’s attorneys said the county
attorney’s office shouldn’t be allowed to prosecute the retrial “based on the
conflict of interest created by their own misconduct” and “the significant
political, public and financial interest they have in the outcome.”
Milke, 49, was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to death for sending her young
son off to visit a mall Santa Claus with two men who fatally shot the boy in the
A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Milke’s conviction
on March 14, concluding that prosecutors hadn’t turned over evidence of the
history of misconduct by a detective who testified at her trial that she had
confessed to him in a closed interrogation room.
Milke has always maintained her innocence. A Sept. 30 retrial has been set,
and prosecutors are again seeking the death penalty.
A hearing was scheduled Thursday on whether Milke can be released on bond as
she awaits her retrial.
Prosecutors adamantly oppose her release and argue that she isn’t entitled to
Defense attorneys said Milke should be released because the evidence against
her is weak and cite the federal appeals court ruling that threw out her
conviction and death sentence.
They also said Milke wants to visit her terminally ill mother, who’s been
battling cancer for more than three years.
Prosecutors claimed Milke had her son killed to collect on a $5,000 insurance
Milke’s roommate, James Lynn Styers, and his friend Roger Mark Scott are on
death row for carrying out the killing. Authorities say Milke’s motive was that
she didn’t want the child anymore and didn’t want him to live with his father.
Milke’s lawyers also are planning to ask the judge in the coming weeks to throw
out Detective Armando Saldate Jr.’s claim that Milke confessed to the killing.
An Aug. 30 hearing has been set to consider the request to suppress the
It’s unknown whether prosecutors will call Saldate as a witness or whether
Styers and Scott will testify after declining to do so at Milke’s first trial.