Twenty Years on Death Row: Debra Milke’s Wrongful Conviction and the Future Publicity Fallout

By Paul Huebl

Debra Milke has languished on Arizona’s Death Row here for more than two decades. She’s no stranger to unwanted publicity, nearly all of it being outrageous and libelous.

This story all began with Milke’s arrest by a really poor excuse for a cop. Milke’s four-year-old son Christopher was taken out to the desert and murdered by two men, James Styers and Roger Scott. The cop, Armando Saldate quickly fabricated a claim of a confession that he swore under oath that Milke gave him.

The reason for the perjury was simple, Saldate thought Milke was somehow involved in the murder and surmised he’d find the real evidence later. Saldate needed something, anything to justify holding Milke in custody and the phony confession did the trick.

To Saldate’s chagrin no real evidence ever surfaced. He was stuck repeating his lies under oath before a Grand Jury, a court and petit jury. 20 years later in January of 2010 Saldated lied again to a federal judge. I’m convinced that by his own reprehensible conduct Saldate has been personally tortured with guilt and shame. Unfortunately that’s the only punishment he’s received so far.

We all can only imagine the horror of the arrest, confinement, bad food, abuse and abject loneliness of Milke’s miserable ride through the criminal justice system. In jail and prison there is no privacy including the use of showers and the toilet. Invasive and humiliating strip searches are an everyday ordeal.

Then over the years the flashing of video and images of Milke in newspapers and TV all connected to a despicable crime in which Milke had no involvement. Publicity condemning her or even the broadcasts that raise issues of innocence all cause people to wonder if this woman is a terrible child killer. In the end it’s all something nobody should face especially when they are innocent.

I suspect there is no correspondent anywhere that has produced more TV stories and documentaries than me on this sad case. I’ve also written a feature film screenplay in addition to the thousands of words on this blog. It’s what I chose to do for a living and this shocking, compelling story must be told. I will see this through to the release of this victimized woman.

Milke’s story had every ingredient to drive publicity, books and films. It made for as fascinating and by far the longest news story that I’ve ever worked on. Had it not been for the media interest Milke’s case it may have very well have gone unnoticed until some candle light vigil the night before her execution.

Milke will probably never be able to return to a normal life where people won’t point to her and gossip about her ordeal. I hope most of it will be kind but unfortunately some of it won’t, as people will always wonder about the idea that’s Milke may have been involved with this disgusting murder.

Milke has found fame but at a huge price. For Milke disappearing in our small world will prove impossible. I have no doubt she will exploit this in a positive and productive way. How else can she deal with this disaster?

So far only the most unflattering pictures of this otherwise attractive woman are displayed in the media. Jail and prison mugshots are hardly elegant or even remotely pleasing. For Milke to see these pictures and images of her in chains must be pure torture.

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Categories: Law/Justice

4 replies »

  1. Debra should NOT be leaving death row!! It’s just too bad they didn’t kill her before she could have her conviction thrown out. Yes, the cop was “crooked” but WHY would the two men take Christopher supposedly to see Santa Claus (that sick ^%## came up with that story) and then kill him? Because Debra Milke wanted insurance money and promised to pay the men to kill her little boy. She is guilty as sin IMO and its just sickening that this animal will walk free. Where is justice for that little boy who must have been terrified when he finally realized he wasn’t going to see Santa when the men pulled a gun and killed him. How cruel!! No goddam way should she go free!!! Rip poor little guy. I wish you had gotten justice sweet baby.

  2. Jodie was born a 2,000 too late. She should have been back there in the Roman arena cheering for the blood on the sand. That is, she is not interested in justice but in seeing blood spilled. I have read all of the court documents available online. Only an idiot or a sadist would now think that Debbie is guilty. Doesn’t it mean something to Jodie that the primary state witness now wants to protect himself with the 5th amendment?

  3. Jim,

    I just typed out a very long response that went poof into cyberspace. Basically I’d love if you could tell me WHY you think she’s innocent. You say you’ve read all related court documents. I cannot say the same so tell me what you believe makes her innocent. WHY would 2 men kill a little boy? What motivation – other then the financial gain they’d supposedly been promised by Debra for doing it- would they have?

    Believe me when I say that I’d much rather believe she’s innocent. I hate thinking a mother could be so vicious and cruel to send her little boy off to his death for money. But that’s what it seems. Why else would those men kill that child? It also seems “odd” that Debra wouldn’t have gone herself with her child to see Santa. As a mom, we relish getting our kids dressed up and going with them to see Santa. I cannot imagine not going. That of course isn’t indicative of guilt but it also is strange to send your little boy off by himself with 2 men to see Santa. There’s so much more to this but I’ll leave it to you to tell me why you think she’s innocent. And why those men would kill that little boy? What is your theory?

  4. Jim, explain to me WHY you think she’s innocent. Crooked cop or not, what motivation would those men have to kill that little boy without Debra’s involvement? And who gets two guys to take their little child to see Santa? As a mom, we relish dressing up our kids and going with them to see Santa. Of course that’s not indicative of murder but like so much in this case, it’s odd.

    I’d love to believe she’s innocent. No one wants to think a mother could send her child off to be murdered. So tell me, because I have not read everything that you claim to have read related to this case. WHY do you think she’s innocent and WHY would those men kill the little boy? I’m very curious about your theory.

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