Judge allows release of Ariz. woman in son's death

Associated Press
FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2013 file photo, Debra Jean Milke listens to a judge during a hearing as she awaits a retrial in the 1989 shooting death of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. A judge is allowing Milke to be released on bail as she awaits retrial in the 1989 killing of her young son, a case that had her on death row since 1990 until her conviction was overturn this year. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — A judge is allowing an Arizona woman to be released on bail as she awaits retrial in the 1989 killing of her young son, a case that had her on death row since 1990 until her conviction was overturned this year.

Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court on Thursday set bond for Debra Milke at $250,000.

Mroz's order said there's no direct evidence linking Milke with the death of her 4-year-old son other than a purported confession, and the validity of that confession is in doubt.

A federal appeals court overturned Milke's conviction in March, ruling that the prosecution should have disclosed information about the truthfulness of a since-retired detective who testified that Milke confessed.

Defense attorney Michael Kimerer did not immediately respond to queries about when Milke could be released.

Milke's lawyers had asked that she be released on $50,000 bond so she could stay at a home that supporters have bought in the Phoenix area.

During an Aug. 30 hearing, a prosecutor asked Mroz to deny bail but said if bail was allowed, it should be set it at $5 million.

Authorities say Milke dressed her son Christopher in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989. Two men, Roger Scott and former Milke roommate James Styers, took the boy to the desert and shot him. Neither testified at Milke's trial, and both sit on death row after being convicted in the case.

Scott confessed during a police interrogation and led detectives to the boy's body.

Prosecutors claimed Milke had her son killed to collect on a $5,000 insurance policy.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is again pursuing the death penalty against the 49-year-old Milke, who has maintained her innocence.

The alleged confession is at the heart of the prosecution case against her.

A police detective, Armando Saldate Jr., testified at Milke's trial that she confessed to him in a closed interrogation room.

Saldate's honesty was called into question during Milke's appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence related to Saldate's credibility deprived Milke's attorneys of the chance to question his truthfulness before jurors.

While Deputy County Attorney Vince Imbordino had argued that the purported confession is still admissible, Mroz said the undisclosed material concerning Saldate "casts serious doubt" on its validity.

The judge noted she has scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on the defense's request to prohibit the prosecution from using the confession during the retrial.

"Much has transpired since the original trial," Mroz said.