Debra Milke has spent 22 years on death row for orchestrating the murder of her 4-year-old son, but the Arizona woman may be on the verge of freedom, after a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judge overturned her conviction yesterday. Milke's roommate and a friend shot Milke's son in 1990. Milke was convicted based entirely on the testimony of Detective Armando Saldate, who testified that the friend had implicated Milke in the plot, and that she had confessed, CNN reports. Now Saldate's testimony is coming under suspicion, and Milke could go free soon unless prosecutors decide to retry her.
The friend never testified to Saldate's claim, and there was no record of the confession. It was Saldate's word against Milke's and, unbeknownst to Milke's lawyers, Saldate had a mile-long history of misconduct. Judges had thrown out four confessions and indictments because Saldate had lied under oath, and four more because he had violated defendants' constitutional rights. He was also once suspended for "taking liberties" with a female motorist. The judge said the state "failed in its constitutional obligation" by keeping all of that from Milke's defenders.