Debra Milke case: Researchers discovered detective's misconduct - Fox 2 News Headlines

Debra Milke case: Researchers discovered detective's history of misconduct

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PHOENIX -

She spent 20 years on death row in connection with the death of her son. But now she's out of prison awaiting a re-trial.

Debra Milke's conviction was thrown out after it came out the man who claimed she confessed to him has a long record of lying under oath.

Who found out? Two men. Two men who have never spoken about the case until today, two men who have believed in Milke's innocence and have quietly worked behind the scenes to set her free.

It was page 40 of the 60 page brief that caught our eye. The brief explaining why the federal appeals court tossed out Milke's conviction. A team of approximately 10 researches spent nearly 7,000 hours sifting through court records and found out something shocking.

They have never spoken out about the Debra Milke case until today. Kirk Fowler spent 30 years as a Border Patrol and DEA agent, then worked as an investigator for Debra Milke's defense at her trial.

Anders Rosenquist was her attorney in proceedings after her conviction. They've always thought she is innocent.

Debra Milke was on death row at Perryville prison when Anders Rosenquist got a phone call from a friend at the prison, a counselor, who told him something Rosenquist found surprising.

"She has been here for a while and all the counselors out here including myself do not think she is guilty," recalls Rosenquist.

The counselor said then-Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate had a bad reputation. It was Saldate who claimed Milke confessed to him.

Rosenquist hired about a dozen ASU law students and they all went to work.

The amount of work this team did is absolutely staggering. In the Maricopa County Superior Court clerk's office, there are boxes of records from criminal cases. That's what this team was going through. Every one of those boxes contains 6,000 to 7,000 pages of documents.

They spent three and a half months combing through 18,000 cases, finding examples of misconduct by Saldate and lying under oath.

Rosenquist spent $30,000 out of his own pocket.

"I literally was broke when I got finished with it, I know it sounds weird, but it wasn't even an issue with me."

But Rosenquist wasn't alone. Kirk Fowler worked for 10 years on Milke's case without pay.

"I spent almost 30 years in law enforcement. I worked with really good people, with honorable people. It really really bothers me when someone does something like Detective Saldate did. It really gets to me, you know. I take great pride in the badge," says Fowler.

Armando Saldate's attorney says the former detective will refuse to testify in any retrial of Debra Milke on the grounds he may incriminate himself.

If the judge throw's out Milke's alleged confession, the case against her will likely collapse.

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