Convictions of woman on Arizona death row overturned - Fox 2 News Headlines

Convictions of woman on Arizona death row overturned

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Debra Jean Milke Debra Jean Milke
PHOENIX -

It's been more than 22 years since Debra Milke was convicted and sentenced to death for the horrific murder of her 4-year-old son.

But on Thursday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that conviction, saying it hinged on a confession made to a detective with a history of misconduct.

It was a crime that sent shockwaves through the valley.  A mother accused of dressing up her son in his favorite outfit and promising him a visit to Santa Claus in December 1989.

But the little boy never made it to see Santa.  His body was found in the desert -- shot three times in the head.

Milke was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.

Two other men, James Styers and Roger Scott, were also convicted and sit on death row.

Christopher Milke's father is not happy with the decision of the federal appeals court in California.

"My message?  I think they are a bunch of pompous a****..they are ultra liberal.  Let them pony up the money for her to stay on death row," said AZ Milke.

A jury convicted Debra Milke of first-degree murder based on her confession to then-Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate. But Saldate never recorded the confession and he has a long history of lying under oath, having confessions tossed and violating constitutional rights during interrogations.

"It is perjury after perjury, interrogations that are without tape recorders. It borders on criminal," said Paul Huebl, a private investigator.

Not only was Saldate a bad cop, the appeals court said prosecutors failed to disclose his long history of misconduct to Milke's lawyers. The result: conviction thrown out and the State of Arizona must decide what to do next.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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