So a judge here in Arizona has dismissed all charges against Debra Milke, a woman who was convicted of the murder of her four-year-old son. You can read a bit about it here and here. But what I’d mostly like to focus on is the fact that the case was thrown out because of prosecutorial misconduct.
You see, it turns out that the lead detective in the case claimed she confessed to the crime. There was no record of this happening and no witness to the confession. The detective in question said he threw away his notes on the interrogation. The detective also had several instances of misconduct in various other cases, including lying under oath. That information was withheld from the jury by the prosecutors.
Saldate had been suspended five days for taking “liberties” with a female motorist and lying about it to his supervisors. Four confessions or indictments had been tossed out because Saldate had lied under oath. Judges suppressed or vacated four other confessions because Saldate had violated a person’s constitutional rights.
Well, how charming.
So basically an innocent woman (or at the very least, one the state never proved was guilty), spent 22 years with the specter of death hanging over her head, and did so at least in part because of a detective with a history of lying, and a prosecuting attorney’s office that refused to share evidence of that lying with the jury.
If this sounds familiar, it should, since the previous blog article I wrote was about the same subject, though in that case the person convicted of murder was actually killed by the state. Whoops.
This is yet another great example of why we need to get rid of the death penalty. It’s expensive, it’s not a deterrent, we’re one of the only civilized nations that still uses it, and in cases like this, where you have a prosecutor stepping over the line, it can all too easily lead to an innocent person being killed.