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Updated Aug 30, 2013 - 2:51 pm

Judge mulls bond for woman in son’s 1989 death

PHOENIX — Lawyers urged a judge Friday to allow bail for a woman who spent
22 years on Arizona’s death row before an appeals court threw out her conviction
in the killing of her young son and ordered a retrial.

Attorneys for Debra Milke told Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Vroz
that prosecutors lack enough evidence for the court to presume she might be
guilty for bond purposes, and urged her to be released on $50,000 bond to a home
supporters have bought in the Phoenix area.

“The evidence in this case is weak, it’s flimsy, as the 9th Circuit (Court of
Appeals) said,” attorney Michael Kimerer told Vroz. “We believe she is
entitled to reasonable bond.”

Prosecutor Vince Imbordino said that just wasn’t the case, and that a
confession Milke reportedly made is still admissible, as are statements police
attributed to a co-defendant.

“As I stand here today the evidence is no different than when she was
convicted,” Imbordino said. “Debra Milke confessed to participating in killing
her son.”

Vroz has scheduled four afternoons of hearings next month to consider a request
to have Milke’s confession ruled inadmissible.

Imbordino asked for no bond, but said if the judge decides to grant the defense
request she set it at $5 million. Vroz said Friday she would rule later on the
bond request.

Authorities said Milke dressed her 4-year-old son Christopher in his favorite
outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989.
Two men, Roger Scott and former Milke roommate James Styers, took him to the
desert and shot him. Neither testified at Milke’s trial and both sit on death

The alleged confession is at the heart of the prosecution case against Milke,
49. A detective testified at her trial that she confessed to him in a closed
interrogation room. That detective’s honesty was called into doubt during her
appeals, and the 9th Circuit concluded that prosecutors’ failure to turn over
evidence of previous problems deprived her attorneys of the chance to question
Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate Jr.’s credibility before jurors.

And because it was the only direct evidence tying her to the killing, that fact
could have swayed the jury, the panel ruled.

The court noted four cases where judges threw out confessions or indictments
because Saldate lied under oath and four instances where cases were tossed or
confessions excluded because Saldate violated the suspect’s constitutional
rights. They also asked that the U.S. Justice Department consider investigating
him for civil rights abuses.

Saldate, now retired, has asked Vroz to appoint a lawyer to advise him at a
retrial, and she said Friday she was open to doing so.

Arizona Milke, the father of the slain boy and Debra Milke’s ex-husband, urged
Vroz to deny bond. He said she was likely to flee the country or start drinking
again and die. Milke said he and his ex-wife are both alcoholics.

Debra Milke, now gray-haired, sat quietly during the hearing.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is again pursuing the death penalty.
Debra Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she admitted to the crime.


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