Former Arizona Death Row Inmate Debra Milke Will Live in House Paid for by Supporters

Debra Milke is eager for first night of freedom in 22 years, attorney says.

ByABC News
September 6, 2013, 12:01 PM

Sept. 6, 2013 — -- Debra Jean Milke, one of the most polarizing inmates in Arizona history, is expected to leave jail today and will be taken to a house in Phoenix that her supporters bought for her as she awaits retrial in the 1989 killing of her 4-year-old son.

"At first, it was shock and disbelief, and then she was ecstatic," Milke's defense attorney, Michael Kimerer, told "She said, 'Oh, I just can't catch up with my feelings. It's overwhelming.'"

Milke's bond was set at $250,000 on Thursday as she awaits retrial. Her mother, who lives in Germany, was expected to post the money today, according to Kimerer.

Milke, now 49, has been cast as a coldhearted and calculating killer. In December 1989, according to prosecutors, she told her 4-year-old son, Christopher, that she was going to take him to see Santa Claus. Instead, they said, Milke handed her son over to two men who took him into the Arizona desert and killed him so she could collect an insurance payout.

Prosecutors said Milke confessed to Phoenix Police Det. Armando Saldate. However, he said he failed to tape record it.

Milke denied that she ever confessed, but was found guilty and sentenced to death.

In March, a federal appeals court overturned her conviction because the prosecution did not disclose Saldate's history of misconduct, which included eight cases in which judges tossed out confessions, indictments and convictions because he lied under oath or violated suspects' rights during interrogations.

"Milke's conviction was based largely on the testimony of Police Det. Saldate, who allegedly obtained her confession," the court wrote in its decision. "The panel held that the state remained unconstitutionally silent instead of disclosing information about Det. Saldate's history of misconduct and accompanying court orders and disciplinary action."

The ruling mandated that Arizona authorities turn over all of the information that was not disclosed during the trial to Milke's defense team.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office has vowed to retry Milke, and prosecutors will seek the death penalty, according to the Associated Press. Her retrial is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 30.

Roger Scott and James Styers, the two men who prosecutors claimed actually killed Milke's son, were convicted and remain on death row.

Scott confessed to the crime during a police interrogation, according to the AP, and led police to the boy's body. Neither man testified at Milke's trial.

Despite becoming one of the most vilified inmates in Arizona history, Milke has also attracted a loyal group of supporters in Arizona and her native Germany who believe she is the victim of a "modern witch hunt," according to a Facebook page maintained by her supporters.

According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, two other women remain on death row in the state.