Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announces intention to appeal
In what has to rank as one of the most outrageous rulings from the 9th Circus Court of Appeals, a three-judge panel on Thursday threw out the murder conviction of a woman sentenced to death in the notorious and vicious plot that took the life of her own 4-year-old son.
In 1989, Debra Milke, whose live-in boyfriend James Styers was not interested in dealing with the child, arranged for Styers and his friend Roger Scott to take little Christopher to the desert outside Phoenix, where he was shot three times in the back of the head. Milke had told the little boy, dressed in his favorite outfit, he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus.
During the trial, prosecutors described a plot by Milke and the two other defendants to collect a $50,000 life insurance policy taken out on the child.
German-born Milke, 48, is one of three women on Arizona’s death row. The two men are both on death row in Arizona State Prison in Florence. Scott confessed during a police interrogation, later leading detectives to the boy’s body in a desert wash.
The three-judge panel was comprised of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski — who wrote the opinion, and Circuit Judges Jerome Farris and Carlos T. Bea. The 60-page opinion can be read here.
Kozinski was nominated by Ronald Reagan. Farris, by Jimmy Carter, and Carlos Bea by George W. Bush.
The ruling reversed a U.S. District Court judge’s previous ruling and ordered the lower court to require Arizona authorities to turn over all relevant personnel records for former Detective Armando Saldate Jr., accused of violating the suspects’ Miranda rights during interrogations. Once the material is produced and defense attorneys have reviewed it, prosecutors will have 30 days to decide whether to retry Milke. In the event they don‘t, she will be released from prison.
Maricopa County prosecutors had not read the ruling and had no immediate comment on the decision, according to a spokesman. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office is reviewing the case gauging the possibility of filing an appeal.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne released the following statement today regarding the decision of a three-member Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel to throw out the death sentence and murder conviction of Debra Milke:
“We will be appealing this decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Court takes the appeal, I will argue it personally as I have done in two previous cases over the past five months. In my last case, the Supreme Court accepted my argument and overruled the Ninth Circuit’s decision unanimously.
In this case, Ms. Milke was found to have arranged the killing of her own son, a four-year-old toddler, because he was too much of a burden and interfering with her life. After dressing him up and telling him he was going to the mall to see Santa Claus, Milke was convicted of sending her young son off to be shot, execution style, in a desert wash.
This is a horrible crime. The Ninth Circuit’s decision needs to be reversed, and justice for Christopher needs to be served.”