The Debra Milke case out of Maricopa County, Arizona caused a stir earlier this year when the 9th Circuit threw out Milkie’s conviction, citing prosecutorial misconduct. The Court handed down a biting critique of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for its failure to disclose evidence that the lead detective in Milke’s case had a long and sordid history of misconduct, including lying under oath and accepting sexual favors for leniency.
In its 60 page opinion, the 9th Circuit referred to a “trove” of impeachment evidence against lead detective Armando Saldate, Jr. (including judicial findings of misconduct) that the Maricopa DA’s office knew about and never disclosed to Milkie’s lawyers. Since Saldate’s testimony that Milke confessed to him was the only hard evidence that implicated Milke in the death of her son, the 9th Circuit tossed her death sentence, finding that without Milke’s alleged confession there was not enough evidence to support a conviction.
You can read our previous posts about the Debra Milke case here.
Now, Milke’s attorney has asked for the Maricopa County Attorney’s office to be recused from the case altogether. Michael Kimerer is arguing on Milke’s behalf that the current County Attorney Bill Montgomery has a significant interest in trying to obtain another capital conviction against Milke in order to shield his office from potential penalties, civil liability and investigation by the federal government:The decisions and actions of the current County Attorney and his prosecutors simply cannot be separated from the already wrongful conduct of the original County Attorney and his prosecutors, and their conflict should be imputed to the entire Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
Kimerer filed a motion to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as the prosecuting agency in the case on August 1, 2013. In the motion, Kimerer points to County Attorney Montgomery’s unwillingness to accept the wrongfulness of his office’s past actions: “…[T]he Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has chosen to embrace Detective Saldate’s actions and validate his misconduct by proceeding on the basis of an unreliable and illegally obtained confession.” Kimerer also cites Montgomery’s political, public and financial interest and suggests that his decision to move forward with a retrial despite a dearth of evidence signals his political interest in the outcome of the case. This creates an untenable conflict for the County Attorney’s Office, whose duty it is to uphold the interests of justice, Kimerer asserts.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s office is expected to respond to the motion before it is ruled on by the trial court judge.