More Background on Debra Milke

Debra MilkeAs Debra Milke continues to rot in prison, the Arizona “justice” system continues to try to avoid admitting to their wrongdoing. I’ve previously written about Milke’s outrageous conviction for murder 22 years ago as well as the current efforts of the Arizona Attorney General to appeal the Ninth Circuit Court’s decision to overturn the verdict. But I can’t get enough of this case. I check every day. Naively, I continue to hope that there will be a quick resolution to this and that this poor woman will at long last be set free. I don’t think I will lose interest until she finally is released.

There have been two interesting articles about Milke in the last week or so. Over at OpEd News Barry Graham wrote, U.S. Media Helped Keep Debra Milke on Death Row for 20 Years. He learned about the case 13 years ago and tried to get some of his editors interested in the story. None were. To some extent you can understand this. Even now, after the conviction has been overturned, Milke’s story is entirely “dog bites man.” Unfortunately, what has happened to her is only too common. What makes it exceptional at this point is that she may at long last get some modicum of justice.

In Graham’s article, he fills in a couple of details about the case:

After her arrest, she was interviewed by a cop, Armando Saldate, who was notorious for having testimony thrown out in other cases; in at least one case, the judge declared him to have fabricated testimony. Saldate did not tape record the interview, even though his supervisor told him to make sure he did. He asked another cop to leave the room. And then he claimed that Milke had confessed that she was in on the killing, and he charged her with murder. Saldate claimed to have lost his notes. Milke has always denied making the confession or having anything to do with the killing. No other evidence against her was ever found, but she was tried by the media and by a hostile judge, and sentenced to death.

I knew that Saldate didn’t record the interview; if he had, we wouldn’t be here today. But the fact that his supervisor specifically told him to record it and he didn’t is almost unbelievable. It seems certain that his history of lying on the stand had something to do with that request. But even the recording mightn’t have been necessary if he hadn’t decided to do the interrogation alone. Everything I’ve learned about Saldate makes him seem like a very unreliable, even actively dishonest guy. But I wonder: why did the police force retain such an officer on the force? And didn’t his superiors have a duty to call all these problems to the attention of the court—especially when they learned that Saldate was the entire case against Milke?

Over at Above the Law, David Lat reported on the circus environment surrounding Milke’s trial. He reprinted an article from the time that appeared in the Arizona Republic by Brent Whiting. This is taken from the Debra Milke website:

A Phoenix courtroom became a concert hall last week as a young violinist was allowed to play before lawyers, spectators and a captive audience of prisoners who sat shackled together in a jury box.

Judge CHERYL HENDRIX of Maricopa County Superior Court said that the solo by the son of her courtroom clerk was intended to relieve stress and provide entertainment, but some lawyers groused about the show…

Hendrix said that Joshua Allen Wallwork, 16, was at the courthouse with his violin last Friday for other court business and that she wanted to hear him perform. The student at Dobson High School in Mesa performed hours before murder defendant Debra Jean Milke was sentenced to death by HENDRIX for the slaying of Milke’s 4-year-old son. But HENDRIX said Tuesday that the performance had nothing to do with the stress of Milke’s case.

I can’t even imagine. It is totally inappropriate, but even more: it is heartless. Judge Hendrix was about to sentence Milke to death but she turned her courtroom into a concert venue because “she wanted to hear him” and that it was “intended to relieve stress”? This story convinces me that Graham was right when he wrote that the judge was “hostile.” I might add incompetent.

Meanwhile, the wait continues.


I found a great overview of the case up to 2009, Debbie Milke Was Convicted of Murdering Her Own Child, Now She May Win Her Freedom (or, At Least, a New Trial). Check it out if you are interested at all in this case.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “More Background on Debra Milke

  1. @Frankie – Thanks for the Facebook link. I’ve linked to in this article as well as elsewhere. But let me be blunt: the website is poorly organized–I have used it little in my research because it is hard to use. I understand that the people who created the website are not professionals. God bless them for creating the site when almost no one (including me) cared. And yes, I would help, but I doubt anyone is interested. Contact me if you are.

    I have to say, however, that the Facebook page is pretty damned good. I encourage readers to check it out:

    [url=]Debra Milke Facebook Page[/url]

    I follow a lot of cases of people who [i]seem[/i] to have been falsely convicted. In Milke’s case, there is no question.

  2. My complements to Frankie who created the orange website. I learned 98% of what i know about the case from this. Most of the critical facts are there just a matter of looking through the material. Without this website we couldn’t have gotten the info. The Facebook postings also has been great at keeping me informed since i discovered it a year or two ago. Its like a current news update which i think is great. I began following this case about 2003 and at the time the orange website really filled me in. I know it was a lot of work. So Frankie, great job. Your efforts to make the website may have saved her.

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