Debra Milke, whose case we have been following since a federal court vacated her capital murder conviction on account of prosecutorial misconduct, has been freed from prison.
Milke is awaiting retrial after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated her conviction in March this year. The 9th Circuit found that the Maricopa District Attorney’s office withheld evidence about the previous misconduct of a detective who investigated Milke’s case and said that Milke confessed to him. That confession was the only piece of evidence linking Milke to the crime. Maricopa County prosecutors sat on evidence that Detective Armando Saldate, Jr. had “a long history of misconduct that includes lying under oath as well as accepting sexual favors in exchange for leniency and lying about it.”
The Huffington Post reports that a judge ordered Milke’s release on a $250,000 bond on Thursday and she was released on Friday. A British newspaper has published a photo of Milke from her first days of freedom. As for the future of the case, that will likely be determined by the judge’s ruling on the admissibility of her purported confession. The Huffington Post explains:Maricopa County prosecutors are still seeking the death penalty against Milke, and her alleged confession is at the heart of the case against her. Police detective Armando Saldate Jr. testified at Milke’s trial that she confessed to him in a closed interrogation room. But Saldate’s honesty was called into question during Milke’s appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in March that prosecutors’ failure to turn over evidence related to Saldate’s credibility deprived Milke’s attorneys of the chance to question his truthfulness before jurors. “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,” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the court. The court noted four cases in which judges threw out confessions or indictments because Saldate lied under oath and four instances in which cases were tossed out or confessions excluded because Saldate violated the suspect’s constitutional rights. He was also suspended for accepting sexual favors from a female motorist he stopped and then lying about the encounter, the court said. Deputy County Attorney Vince Imbordino argued last week during a bond hearing that the purported confession is still admissible, but Mroz said the undisclosed material concerning Saldate “casts serious doubt” on its validity. The judge scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on the defense’s request to prohibit the prosecution from using the confession during the retrial. “Much has transpired since the original trial,” Mroz said.
Update 12.18.2013: The judge presiding over Debra Milke’s case has ruled that Detective Saldate does not have to testify at Milke’s retrial if he wants to plead the 5th. Saldate requested to assert his Fifth Amendment constitutional right against self-incrimination, fearing prosecution for his own wrongdoing in the case. Without Saldate’s testimony, the court has already ruled that Milke’s alleged confession will be inadmissible at trial. There is little other evidence against her in the murder case, which is scheduled for trial in 2015.