Posted by Bob Lord
If you believe Bill Montgomery's public statements, he's 100% certain Debra Milke is guilty of conspiring to kill her four-year old son in 1989.
If you look at the information out there, you'd know he can't be. I'm not saying Milke is innocent (although my hunch is that she is), but there are far too many question marks for anyone with a functioning brain to be certain she's guilty. That's why the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the 1990 conviction in a unanimous decision.
Milke was convicted on the testimony of one witness, Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate, who said Milke confessed to having a role in the murder. Here's what points in the other direction: 1) Saldate had a history of misconduct, including lying; 2) the prosecution failed to disclose the exculpatory evidence regarding Saldate's misconduct; 3) Saldate did not record the alleged confession (in derogation of oreders from superiors), failed to have someone observe the alleged confession, and claims to have destroyed his notes; 4) Saldate had violated other suspects' Miranda rights on multiple prior occasions; 5) the actual murderers, both on death row for the past 20+ years, have steadfastly refused to implicate Milke and 6) Saldate has indicated through his attorneys that he intends to invoke his 5th Amendment rights if asked to testify at a retrial.
Here's the Ninth Circuit's discussion of one item the prosecution failed to disclose about Saldate to Milke and her attorneys:
Saldate's personnel file contained an internal investigation report showing he had been suspended for five days. The report explains that Saldate stopped a female motorist who had a faulty taillight and possibly an outstanding warrant. He let her go without checking her warrant. Let her go isn't quite accurate. Saldate suggested they move to a less conspicuous spot and then followed her to it. Once there, he leaned into her car, “took liberties” with her and acted in a manner “unbecoming an officer.” She offered to meet him later for an “act of sexual intercourse.” Saldate showed up for the rendezvous, but the woman didn't. Instead, someone—perhaps the woman, once she got free of Saldate—reported Saldate's misconduct to the police.
Questioned by investigators, Saldate steadfastly lied about the incident until he failed a polygraph test. “[Y]our image of honesty, competency, and overall reliability must be questioned,” one of Saldate's supervisors wrote in a report signed by the city manager and the chief of police. The facts of Saldate's misconduct, his lies to the investigators and this assessment by his supervisor would certainly have been useful to a jury trying to decide whether Saldate or Milke was telling the truth. Not only does the report show that Saldate has no compunction about lying during the course of his official duties, it discloses a misogynistic attitude toward female civilians and a willingness to abuse his authority to get what he wants. All of this is highly consistent with Milke's account of the interrogation.
Despite all that, Bill Montgomery is dead certain Milke is guilty. So certain, in fact, that he said he would not allow the defense (Milke's attorneys) to "dance on Christopher Milke's grave."
Dancing on a murdered kid's grave? Really? For assisting a woman whose constitutional rights were trampled by the County?
There's only one explanation for Montgomery's ugly bluster: The civil case against the County once the criminal case against Milke is dropped, or lost. Montgomery would like nothing better than to agree with with Milke that she won't be retried if she forebears from a civil suit. He'd take that deal in a heartbeat, but he can't, because it would be extortion. So he's pretending Milke is guilty, because otherwise Milke wins a whopping judgment against the County.
How whopping a judgment? Well, consider what the County appears to have done. Essentially, the County finished the job that her son's murderers started — stealing Milke's motherhood from her. The murderers, Styers and Scott, took Milke's first child from her. The County took the rest of her children from her, by knowingly and wrongly locking her up for her remaining child-bearing years.
Not to mention the 23 years of life the County stole from her as well.
I'm guessing the size of the judgment will depend on how many mothers are on the jury. The jury should be all mothers, or perhaps women who wanted to be mothers but couldn't be. We're all equally qualified or unqualified to place a value on Milke's 23 lost years. But on the damages for the theft of her motherhood, as a man, who am I to judge?