|Name Debra Milke|
Spouse Mark Milke (m. 1984–1988)
|Children Conan Milke|
Siblings Sandy Sadeik
|Parents Richard Sam Sadeik, Renate Janka|
Similar People Wendi Andriano, Jens Soring, Darlie Routier, Uschi Glas, Ray Krone
Justice gone wrong the debra milke story
Debra Jean Milke (née Sadeik; born March 10, 1964) is a German-American woman who spent over 25 years in prison in the state of Arizona. She was one of three people sentenced to death for the December 2, 1989 shooting death of her four-year-old son, Christopher Conan Milke. Her alleged conspirators were her roommate James Lynn Styers and his friend Roger Mark Scott. Neither testifed against her and both agreed that she was not present at the shooting. Scott implicated Milke as the mastermind while Styers said she had no involvement whatsoever. They implicated each other as the actual shooter. Who that was remains a subject of speculation.
- Justice gone wrong the debra milke story
- Debra milke statement at press conference 03 24 2015
- Murder investigation and conviction
- Conviction overturned
- Release from jail
- Dismissal of charges
With the passage of time Milke's conviction became increasingly polarizing, largely due to the conduct and testimony of Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate, Jr. Saldate testified that Milke confessed to him. The alleged confession was uncorroborated, however, and Milke is adamant it did not occur. Saldate was later accused of perjury. Questions about whether a confession was made and whether Milke had voluntarily waived her Miranda rights, Saldate’s long history of misconduct, and prosecuting attorney Noel Levy withholding Saldate’s personnel record from the defense, became central issues of Milke’s appeals.
In March, 2013, a three-judge panel of the United States Ninth Circuit Court unanimously overturned Debra Milke’s conviction. In their ruling, the judges excoriated the conviction. Milke was released on $250,000 bond that September by Judge Rosa P. Mroz of the Maricopa County Superior Court. County prosecutor Bill Montgomery unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the state supreme court, which blocked a proposed retrial. On March 23, 2015, all charges against Debra Milke were formally dismissed with prejudice by Judge Mroz.
Milke has filed a civil wrongful conviction lawsuit. It names the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County, Bill Montgomery, and Armando Saldate, among others, as defendants.
Debra milke statement at press conference 03 24 2015
Debra Milke (Sadeik) was born in Berlin, Germany, to a military family. In 1965 the Sadeik family moved to the U.S., where Milke attended high school and college. She married Mark Milke in 1984 and gave birth to one son, Christopher Conan Milke, in 1985. Debra and Mark divorced in 1988.
Murder investigation and conviction
In August 1989, Debra Milke and her son Christopher Milke moved into an apartment with Jim Styers, a man she knew through her sister. On December 2, 1989, Styers took 4-year-old Christopher to the Metrocenter mall in Phoenix, Arizona. That afternoon he called Milke, who was doing laundry at the apartment, and told her that the boy had disappeared from the mall. Styers alerted mall security, while Milke dialed 9-1-1. A missing person investigation was launched. The next day Phoenix police arrested Roger Scott, a long-time friend of Styers. After more than fourteen hours of interrogation, Scott admitted that he knew where Christopher was and that the boy was dead. He directed the police to a desert area north of Phoenix, where Christopher's body was discovered. Christopher had been shot three times in the head. According to the lead case detective Armando Saldate, Jr., Scott claimed that Styers had committed the murder and that Styers had told him Milke had "wanted it done." However, Scott would not testify against Milke at her trial.
Styers, who had helped in the initial search for Christopher, was arrested and interviewed by police after being implicated by Scott. Milke voluntarily went to the Pinal County sheriff's office where she was interrogated by Saldate. The interrogation was not recorded or witnessed by anyone other than Detective Saldate. Three days later, in a written report of the interrogation, Saldate indicated Milke had confessed to arranging the murder of her son Christopher.
Scott was offered a plea-bargain, 21 years in prison for second degree murder, in return for testifying against Milke and Styers. He wanted to take the deal but his lawyer rejected it.
Milke was charged with conspiracy to commit first degree murder, kidnapping, child abuse, and first-degree murder. At trial, prosecutors relied on the alleged confession and pointed to a possible motive: Milke had taken out a $5,000 life insurance policy on her son. Milke, however, who worked at an insurance agency, had not purposefully negotiated the policy, but obtained it as a part of her regular employee benefits package. She had discussed the policy with Styers.
In October 1990, she was convicted of all charges and sentenced to death. Styers and Scott were charged and tried separately. Both were convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.
In December 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona filed an amicus brief in support of Milke, who by then had been on death row for 18 years. The brief raised questions "regarding the admissibility of uncorroborated and unrecorded confessions" by Milke. In September 2009, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that there was "no evidence" that Milke had "voluntarily" waived her right to remain silent and ordered federal court judge Robert Broomfield to decide if the case merited a new trial. At the subsequent evidentiary hearing, Broomfield disagreed with the appeals court's opinion and found that Milke had validly waived her Miranda rights.
On March 14, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit threw out Milke's conviction, ruling that Milke did not receive a fair trial. It held that Milke's rights had been violated by the failure to turn over Saldate's personnel file to the defense. That file included multiple instances of misconduct, including eight cases where confessions, indictments or convictions were thrown out because Saldate either lied under oath or violated the suspects' rights during interrogations. The court ruled that because "the prosecution did not disclose [the arresting detective] Saldate’s history of misconduct," Arizona had violated its obligation to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense. In their opinion the Circuit Court said,
Milke’s alleged confession, as reported by [Pinal County Sheriff's Detective] Saldate, was the only direct evidence linking Milke to the crime. But the confession was only as good as Saldate’s word, as he’s the only one who claims to have heard Milke confess and there’s no recording, written statement or any other evidence that Milke confessed. Saldate’s credibility was crucial to the state’s case against Milke. 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 in discharging his official duties. If even a single juror had found Saldate untrustworthy based on the documentation that he habitually lied under oath or that he took advantage of women he had in his power, there would have been at least a hung jury. Likewise, if this evidence had been disclosed, it may well have led the judge to order a new trial, enter judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, at least, impose a sentence less than death. The prosecution did its best to impugn Milke’s credibility. It wasn’t entitled, at the same time, to hide the evidence that undermined Saldate’s credibility. (p. 42)
Release from jail
On July 8, 2013, Arizona Attorney General’s Office announced its intention to retry Milke and seek the death penalty for the murder of her son. Milke was released on September 6, 2013, with a $250,000 bond set by Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court. Milke left the jail without talking to reporters, and lived in a house in Phoenix bought by her supporters. On December 18, 2013, Judge Mroz granted Saldate’s request to invoke his 5th Amendment right not to testify.
Dismissal of charges
On December 11, 2014, an Arizona state appeals court ordered the dismissal of murder charges against Milke, ruling that a retrial would result in unconstitutional double jeopardy. On March 17, 2015 the Arizona Supreme Court declined to review the appeal court decision, and on March 23, 2015, Judge Rosa Mroz dismissed the case.