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Arizona judge won’t oust prosecutors in Debra Milke case

PHOENIX — A judge has refused to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney’s
Office from the case of an Arizona woman whose conviction in the killing of her
4-year-old son was overturned because the same office years ago didn’t disclose
prior misconduct by a police detective.

In a ruling signed Monday and released Tuesday, Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa
County Superior Court rejected the disqualification request by Debra Milke’s
lawyers.

Milke attorney Michael Kimerer said his client doesn’t plan an appeal. That
leaves Milke, 49, headed toward a Sept. 30 retrial in the death more than
two decades ago of her son, Christopher.

Her attorneys argued County Attorney Bill Montgomery’s Office pursued the case
because the office was biased, for political and other reasons. The office
denied the allegation.

Milke’s conviction was overturned in March after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals found prosecutors hadn’t turned over evidence of misconduct by a police
detective.

Milke has maintained her innocence, denying she admitted to the crime. However,
the detective testified that Milke confessed to him when they were alone in an
interrogation room. The interview wasn’t recorded.

The appeals court ruling said the evidence of misconduct by the detective in
other cases could have been used by Milke’s lawyers to challenge the
since-retired law officer’s testimony in her case.

In her ruling, Mroz said it was pure speculation by Milke’s lawyers that
Montgomery’s office would retry the case for improper reasons. And there is no
record of any recent pattern by the office of violating rules on disclosing
evidence, Mroz said.

The judge also said prosecutors have a duty to see that justice is done, and
that judges can’t presume prosecutors would seek a conviction “at all costs.”

Mroz also rejected the suggestion by Milke’s lawyers that Montgomery’s office
wanted to protect the case’s original prosecutor, who has since retired.

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