Finally Justice for Debra Milke

Debra MilkeI’m getting to this a bit late, since it was resolved back in December. But I’m pleased to report that all charges against Debra Milke have been dropped. I’ll list all the articles I’ve written about her below. But the basic story is that 26 years ago, two guys murdered her son. Those two guys are on death row in Arizona right now. But the officer running the investigation was convinced that she was in on it. And based only on the fact that he said she confessed, she was put on death row and spent 23 years in prison. This is, all you death penalty advocates, the way it works; perhaps it is time to stop assuming the justice system works the way you think it ought to and deal with the system the way it actually is. But I digress.

Even after the Court of Appeals demanded a retrial, the state refused to give up. The officer who claimed that she had confessed had a long history of lying on the stand and pressuring people into false confessions. You can well imagine how a mother who’s child was just murdered might feel guilty about it. And any kind of statement of that guilt would easily be used to claim that she had “confessed.” There was no recording and not even written notes. The whole thing is an outrage.

For the two years since she was released from prison on bail, the main question has been whether the state could force the officer to testify. Although he claims that he absolutely did nothing wrong and that he knows Milke is guilty, he’s been pleading the Fifth. Finally, the court decided that he had a right not to get up on the stand and commit perjury. (Eventually, the Court of Appeals decided he didn’t have such a right.) But still the county continued in its efforts to get Milke. But on 11 December 2014, the Court of Appeals decided that the county couldn’t even try Milke again — that it would effectively be double jeopardy.

The county, of course, is determined to take the case to a higher level. County Attorney Bill Montgomery said, “This office today bears the burden for trying to get justice for Christopher Milke.” So let’s see. They have two men on death row, who have been there for decades. And Debra Milke herself spent 23 years in prison. I’m kind of thinking that in the context of justice as people like Montgomery see it, the boy has received justice. And let’s just assume for a moment that Debra Milke was not responsible: does it increase Christopher’s justice to wrongly jail and even kill his mother? And what about justice for Debra Milke?

Sad to say, Debra Milke is lucky. I know, it seems ridiculous: she spent 23 years in prison. But there are so many people who simply think she should have been killed long ago. And lest you think she will now be able to sue to the state of Arizona, think again. She hasn’t been proven not guilty. The Court of Appeals only decided that the behavior of the prosecutors was so bad that the state does not have a right to retrial. It’s a usual thing: the state totally abuses its power and the remedy is to stop the state from abusing its power any more in that one particular case. The original prosecutor will not be held accountable. The lying police officer will not be held accountable. And perhaps most telling of all, the media who pretty much found her guilty before she ever went to trial, will not be held accountable. But one active injustice has been reversed. That’s not nearly good enough, but it is something.

See Also

Debra Milke and the Injustice System
Attorney General to Appeal Milke Case
More Background on Debra Milke
Media Bias and 22 Years on Death Row
Debra Milke Released on Bond
Second Guessing the Falsely Accused

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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.

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