Mom Freed From Death Row: 'This Is Not Happiness'

Debra Milke says she lives with a broken heart
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 25, 2015 7:14 AM CDT
Mom Freed From Death Row: 'This Is Not Happiness'
Debra Milke cries as she is embraced by attorney Lori Voepel, right, during a news conference, Tuesday, March 24, 2015, in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Matt York)

An Arizona woman's "living nightmare" is over, her lawyers say. But for Debra Milke, her freedom "is bittersweet," she says. "This is not happiness." After 22 years on death row, Milke was cleared of murder charges earlier this week related to the death of her 4-year-old son, who was shot by Milke's roommate and another man in 1989. She was originally convicted of conspiring to murder her son based on the testimony of detective Armando Saldate, who had a history of lying under oath. "I had absolutely nothing to do with the brutal murder of my son, Christopher, and I did not give a confession to Mr. Saldate," an emotional Milke, 51, said in her first comments yesterday, per the Guardian. "I always believed this day would come. I just didn't think it would have to take 25 years, three months, and 14 days to rectify such a blatant miscarriage of justice."

"I live with an abiding sense of loss and a chunk of my heart is gone," she continued. "But Christopher's spirit is with me always, which is a comfort to the remaining pieces of my broken heart." Milke's lawyer says there is still a question of motive for Christopher's killers, James Styers and Roger Scott, now on death row. One theory, however, is that Styers killed Milke's son because he wanted a romantic relationship with Milke, who was about to move out. Though the Guardian notes Milke will not be retried, a prosecutor says he could secure another conviction with new witnesses who could testify to incriminating comments Milke made, the AP reports. When asked why bullets in her purse matched the caliber used to kill her son, Milke said she put them there when she found them in Styers' laundry. "Clearly, I forgot they were in my purse," she said. Milke is now pressing for a law forcing police to record all interrogations. (More Armando Saldate stories.)

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