Debra Milke’s Wrongful Conviction and the Future Publicity Fallout

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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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