Debra Milke convicted of sons murder in 1990, detective had history of misconduct
A US judge has dismissed the murder case against an Arizona woman who spent more than 20 years on death row for the 1989 killing of her four-year-old son.
Debra Jean Milke hugged her supporters and sobbed as she exited the courtroom in Phoenix.
Judge Rosa Mroz ended the case after prosecutors lost their final appeal last week.
Milke was convicted of murder in 1990 over the death of her son, Christopher.
Authorities say Milke dressed him in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a shopping mall in December 1989.
He was then taken into the desert near Phoenix by two men and shot in the back of the head.
Authorities had alleged that Milke’s motive was that she did not want the child any more and did not want him to live with his father.
Milke has maintained her innocence and denied that she confessed to the killing. The two men who led her child to his death were convicted of murder but refused to testify against Milke.
An appeals court overturned Milke’s conviction in 2013, ruling that prosecutors failed to disclose a detective’s history of misconduct.
Her conviction was based entirely on a confession Milke gave to the now-discredited detective, which he did not record.
The federal appeals court threw out Milke’s conviction and death sentence, arguing prosecutors knew about Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate’s record of misconduct, but did not disclose it.
Multiple court rulings in other cases said the now-retired officer either lied under oath or violated suspects’ rights during interrogations.