Debra Milke, now 51, spent more than 20 years on death row after her high-profile conviction.  Now she is speaking out after all charges that she arranged the murder of her son were dismissed.

“I had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal murder of my son Christopher and I did not give a confession,” Debra Milke said, “The only thing equally worse [than losing a child] is to be falsely accused of the death of your child.”

“I always believed this day would come. I just didn’t think it would have to take 25 years, three months, and 14 days to rectify such a blatant miscarriage of justice,” said Milke.

Milke was accused of arranging for two men to kill her son in December of 1989 so she could collect insurance money.  The two men told the boy he was going to see Santa Claus.  They took him out in the desert and executed him.

“I live with an abiding sense of loss, and a chunk of my heart is gone, but Christopher’s spirit is with me always,” said Milke.

The case against Milke began to unravel when the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned her conviction after learning prosecutors withheld impeachment evidence against Detective Armando Saldate.  Saldate who claimed Milke confessed, though there was no corroborative evidence, had a long history of misconduct and lying under oath.  The confession was the only evidence against her.

“The prosecution against me was one of a malicious nature,” said Milke, “My innocence did not matter in their pursuit of a conviction.”

The two men convicted of killing Christopher, James Styers and Roger Scott, remain on death row.  There are many theories as to their motive, but it remains unclear.  One of the most popular theories is that Styers killed Christopher because he believed that Milke would date him if she didn’t have a child to care for.

Saldate will not face any charges. Milke has filed a civil lawsuit against the Maricopa County Attorney, the city of Phoenix, and several detectives on her case.

Mike Kimerer, Milke’s attorney for 15 years, said that he took the case because he believed she was wrongfully convicted.  He cited the weak evidence in the case.

“It started in December 1989 when she was arrested and ultimately falsely convicted to have conspired to kill her son,” Kimerer said, “She spent 22 years on death row. … She can now have the life which she was deprived of for 24 years.”

Kimerer gave most of the credit to his co-counsel, Lori Voepel, who uncovered the detective’s checkered past.


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