(or: How Tom Horne puts the people of Arizona in an untenable position)
For 22 years Debra Jean Milke was battling a verdict against her for a crime she had nothing to do with. On Thursday, March 14, 2013 the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit, Alex Kozinski, correctly recognized:
“Here, the state court’s fact-finding process was defective in two distinct ways. The first defect resulted from the prosecution’s suppression of a suspension report contained in Saldate’s personnel file. The report was clearly available to the state and it unquestionably constituted Brady and Giglio evidence of the most egregious kind, yet the state suppressed it for more than a decade. When it was finally disclosed in federal court in 2002, the report showed that Saldate had suffered a five-day suspension for accepting sexual favors from a female motorist and then lying about it.”
Based on the account of this officer, Armando Saldate, Jun., Arizona prosecuted three people who were supposedly involved in a conspiracy to kill Debra Milke’s then 4 year old son Christopher: His mother, Debra Milke, her roommate James Styers, and Styers’ long-time buddy Roger Scott. It was claimed that the little boy was taken to a pizza parlor by Styers and Scott (until 1 p.m.) and then to the desert where he was killed. Not only is this story clearly faulty; it is refuted by two Phoenix police reports: One shows that Roger Scott was seen by three independent witnesses between 1.15 and 2 p.m. in a three-miles distance only. Another report speaks of a missing child at the Metro Center already between 2 and 2.30 p.m. There is no way that JAMES STYERS could have showed up at the Metro Center before 3 p.m. if he had driven to the murder scene after the stay at the pizza parlor.
Therefore the reconstruction of the time line of proceedings on that day shows that Christopher must have been killed at 11 a.m., when four independent witnesses heard five to seven shots being fired (not only the three which killed Christopher), in two series, with a one, two or three minutes break in between. This scenario shows that STYERS’ testimony at his own trial appears most believable: The three individuals went back to the car, STYERS in front, behind him Christopher, and at the end ROGER SCOTT. Then the gun went off, precisely as witness ALAN SWANSON had described: “There was a shot, pause, shot, shot.” Already the first bullet fired by SCOTT killed the child.
Yet, alarming roles were also carried by two other parties: the media, and the jury. Even after MILKE’S repealed conviction and death sentence the local media finds no way to come to reasonable terms with his case. Since the governmental brain-washing claimed that a ‘conspiracy’ existed, media people in Arizona still don’t get the fact that this killing was not premeditated. Why should it be? One radio host even claimed that STYERS supposedly wanted the boy dead in order to get into the bed of his mother. Speculations over speculations. What we witness is the bankruptcy of intelligence and a halfway sound approach to evaluating a criminal case, paired with the misled power of the local mass media. We have no reason to believe that STYERS intended Christopher dead. MILKE’S own sister SANDRA PICKINPAUGH trusted STYERS as a babysitter, and so did DEBRA. All neighbors unequivocally stated that JAMES was a great father to his own daughter WENDY and good caretaker for Christopher. And then there’s the jury: While the local tabloid papers only parroted Saldate’s and county inquisitor Noel Levy’s claims that a conspiracy existed, tape-recorded interviews of jury members show how unreasonably they decided. Jury foreman Eric C. Johnson claimed that ‘there were a lot of little things,’ while the state and the defense of MILKE agreed that the invented confession is the only piece of circumstantial evidence while links Milke to the crime. So what other things would that have been? They plainly did not like Debra when she took the stand on her own behalf, because she supposedly showed no emotions. Clearly the young woman was deeply traumatized, but this was never brought out to the jury. Imagine your child gets killed, and on top you are indicted of that! Juror Byron E. Salmans even said “She showed no remorse,” but how do you show remorse for something you had no part in?
Attorney General Tom Horne now announced to appeal the 9th Circuit Court’s decision. It shows the disdain of the Arizona authorities for their citizens and their lack of caring for the truth. The motives to keep Debra Milke incarcerated are therefore clearly politically motivated, and are disgusting to every halfway decent person and sound mind.
Saldate’s lies and falsehoods went way further than just inventing Milke’s dubious confession. Why was that confession invented at all? Looking at the proceedings of December 3rd, 1989 we can see that STYERS was arrested by police after the dead body of Christopher Milke was found in the desert. When Saldate, his fellow detective Robert Mills, and ROGER SCOTT returned from their drive to the murder scene and the Metro Center STYERS was informed that he was arrested for the murder of Christopher (6.41 p.m.). STYERS responded that he wouldn’t say anything more and requested an attorney. That is when two other Phoenix police detectives, who were already on the way to Florence in a car, were instructed via radio explicitly not to speak to Debra. Saldate booked a helicopter flight and took things into his own hands (he arrived there at 7.53 p.m.). The rest is the saddest part in the history of the Arizona criminal system (it is not a ‘justice’ system because it is not just; it is merely ‘criminal’).
Arizona citizens therefore have to decide how to evaluate Horne’s announcement: He is telling Arizonans as well as all American people that it’s perfectly fine for law enforcement to talk to a suspect and later claim that an uncorroborated confession was given, and then you are booked on death row. Aren’t the criminals in some cases the ones in the judge’s chairs, the prosecution’s offices, and the law enforcement? Aren’t they the ones on colorful political posters, bragging in speeches of how great they supposedly are? In fact, they are even too weak to tell right from wrong. Aren’t these criminals in such cases the ones the taxpayer unwillingly supports? Is that the America the people want? Debra Milke stays on Arizona death row for the dubious motives of Tom Horne and Jan Brewer, solely in order to cover their filthy butts. I prefer to side with the sound mind of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski:
“Indeed, given Saldate’s long history of trampling the rights of suspects, one wonders how Saldate came to interrogate a suspect in a high-profile murder case by himself, without a tape recorder or a witness. And how could an interrogation be concluded, and a confession extracted, without a signed Miranda waiver? In a quarter century on the Ninth Circuit, I can’t remember another case where the confession and Miranda waiver were proven by nothing but the say-so of a single officer. Is this par for the Phoenix Police Department or was Saldate called in on his day off because his supervisors knew he could be counted on to bend the rules, even lie convincingly, if that’s what it took to nail down a conviction in a high-profile case? (…) Bad cops, and those who tolerate them, put all of us in an untenable position.”
Tom Horne puts the people of Arizona in an untenable position. How long will he continue to fight the honor and the remembrance of Christopher Conan Milke?
And Kozinski continues…
“Indeed, without the confession, there’s not enough evidence to support a conviction.”