PHOENIX — Murder charges were formally dismissed Monday against an Arizona woman who spent two decades on death row for killing her 4-year-old son.
Debra Milke’s hearing Monday in Maricopa County Superior Court lasted less than three minutes as Judge Rosa Mroz dismissed the murder charges without prejudice and ordered a probation officer to remove a monitoring device from Milke’s ankle.
Last week, the Arizona Supreme Court turned down appeals by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office to reinstate murder charges against Milke and to compel a disgraced detective to testify in the case.
The Arizona Court of Appeals threw out the murder charge against Milke in December. The state Supreme Court during conferences on Tuesday declined review without comment.
Those two men, James Styers and Roger Scott, remain on death row.
According to court records and media accounts, Milke found the child to be an inconvenience and asked Styers, her roommate, to kill him.
Milke’s conviction and death sentence were thrown out in March 2013 by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Milke has remained free on bond since September 2013.
This photo of Christopher Conan Milke, 4, appeared among many murder victims on a display wall at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort in August 2000. (Photo: The Arizona Republic)
The appellate court returned the case to Maricopa County Superior Court because the original prosecutor failed to disclose evidence that might have helped Milke’s attorneys challenge testimony from a Phoenix police detective.
The detective, Armando Saldate, claimed that Milke confessed to him, but there were no witnesses to the confession, nor was it recorded. And the prosecution did not turn over the detective’s personnel record, which showed misconduct in other cases.
The County Attorney’s Office resumed prosecution of Milke after the 9th Circuit ruling, but Milke’s lawyers, Michael Kimerer and Lori Voepel, appealed to the Arizona Court of Appeals. They asked the appellate court to throw out the charges because of double jeopardy and now-retired prosecutor Noel Levy’s “egregious behavior” in the case. That led to the December decision throwing out the charges against Milke.
The County Attorney’s Office appealed the dropped charges to the Arizona Supreme Court, and appealed a separate ruling that Saldate could invoke the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify in a retrial.
In mid-March, Milke’s attorneys filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against the City of Phoenix, its police department, including individual detectives, and Maricopa County and the County Attorney’s Office. The lawsuit alleges multiple civil rights violations, including malicious prosecution.
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