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Police and prosecutors failed us in Debra Milke case

by Laura Sunday, Mar. 17, 2013 at 8:32 AM

This isn't an isolated incident, Arizona cops have been framing people for murder base on coerced confessions for as long back as the Buddhist Tempe Murders when they coerced confessions from the Tucson kids. Well at least that is as far as I can remember. I am sure the have been framing people from before I was born.

In the case of Debra Milke I suspect Phoenix Detective Armando Saldate just made up her confession out of thin air.

But in most of these cases the police get confessions with the "9 Step Reid Method", which is pretty much a technique where the cops beat the krap out of a suspect with mental rubber hoses to get confessions.

The "9 Step Reid Method" works so well it routinely gets innocent people to confess to crimes they didn't commit.


Laurie Roberts | azcentral opinions

Police and prosecutors failed us in Debra Milke case

Posted on March 15, 2013 4:49 pm by Laurie Roberts Police and prosecutors failed us in Debra Milke case

It seems somehow fitting that Arizona’s most notorious baby killer – make that now Arizona’s possibly most notorious baby killer – would see her conviction tossed out this week.

This week, the 50th anniversary of the arrest of Ernesto Miranda. Miranda’s rape conviction was tossed out by the U.S. Supreme Court when it ruled that suspects must be informed of their rights before they can be questioned by police.

Fifty years after Miranda’s interrogation by Phoenix police, Debra Milke’s conviction was thrown out this week because of substantial – and alarming – questions about her interrogation by Phoenix police.

Questions about whether she got a fair trial and just how far some police and prosecutors will go in their zeal to get a conviction.

“It’s scary when you see something like this because this could happen to any one of us at any time,” Milke’s attorney, Mike Kimerer, told me.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals must agree because it forwarded its Milke opinion, issued Thursday, to the U.S. Attorney in Arizona and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, for possible investigation into whether there’s “a pattern of violating the federally protected rights of Arizona residents.”

It’s been more than 22 years since 4-year-old Christopher Milke was told he was going to see Santa and instead was taken into the desert and executed. For two decades, Debra Milke has lived on death row, put there by the testimony of a Phoenix detective who told jurors she confessed to ordering the boy’s 1989 execution.

Detective Armando Saldate testified that Milke confessed after acknowledging that she understood her Miranda rights. Milke said she didn’t understand and asked for an attorney but continued talking to defend herself and that Saldate twisted her words into a confession she never made.

It was his word against hers. There was no other direct evidence linking her to Christopher’s death.

Saldate didn’t tape the interview despite being asked to by a supervisor, and he didn’t have a witness to Milke’s confession though another detective waited just outside the room.

Saldate said in a 2010 hearing that he wasn’t required to tape interviews and didn’t like to because it “inhibited” conversation. Even so, he said he would have taped it but Milke objected.

The problem is, Saldate didn’t even bring a tape recorder to his meeting with Milke, at the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office in Florence, or ask to borrow one before going into the interview room.

Milke was sentenced to death in 1991.

Turns out Saldate had a history of trampling people’s Miranda rights and lying under oath to get convictions or to further prosecutions, according to the 9th Circuit opinion. Only police and prosecutors never disclosed that to Milke’s attorney or to the jury.

Never disclosed a 1973 incident when Saldate pulled over a woman for a traffic stop, took “liberties” with her and later lied about it to internal affairs investigators.

Never disclosed four court cases in which confessions or indictments had been been tossed out because Saldate lied to grand juries and judges.

Never disclosed four other cases in which confessions were suppressed or convictions tossed because Saldate violated suspects’ Miranda and other constitutional rights during interrogations.

Like the time he managed to get a statement out of an incoherent suspect hospitalized with a skull fracture, a guy who didn’t even know his own name or what year it was.

Or the time he interrogated a suspect who was in intensive care, drifting in and out of consciousness, and came up with something to use against him at trial.

In overturning Milke’s conviction, the appeals panel criticized both Phoenix police and the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for failing to disclose Saldate’s misconduct.

“It’s hard to imagine anything more relevant to the jury’s — or the judge’s – determination whether to believe Saldate than evidence that Saldate lied under oath and trampled the constitutional rights of suspects, “ the judges wrote.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote a scathing concurrence, saying “no civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone’s life or liberty.”

Not even, presumably, in Maricopa County.

Attorney General Tom Horne plans to appeal, vowing Friday to personally argue the case before the Supreme Court.

“This is a horrible crime,” he said in a statement. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision needs to be reversed, and justice for Christopher needs to be served.”

Justice, indeed, needs to be served. Which why Horne might want to read the 60-page opinion and ask a few hard questions about what happened here.

An innocent woman might have been condemned to die because police and prosecutors cut corners.

Or a guilty woman may walk free.

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