Debra Milke Update: Judge allows release of Ariz. woman accused in son's death

Undated booking photo of Debra Milke, who asw on death row after being convicted of first-degree murder and other charges in the 1989 killing of her son, Christopher
Arizona Department of Corrections via KPHO
Debra Milke in an undated booking photo.
Arizona Department of Corrections via KPHO

(CBS) PHOENIX - A judge says it's not "plain and clear" that Debra Milke killed her young son in 1989 and therefore set bond at $250,000 for the Arizona woman as she awaits her retrial, reports.

Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court said Thursday there's no direct evidence linking Milke with the death of her 4-year-old son other than a purported confession, and the validity of that confession is in doubt.

"The existing information does not make it 'plain and clear' ... that the defendant committed the crimes," Mroz wrote, according to "The court finds that the proof is not evident or presumption great that the defendant committed the crimes charged in the indictment."

A federal appeals court overturned Milke's conviction earlier this year, ruling that the prosecution should have disclosed information about the truthfulness of a since-retired detective who testified that Milke confessed.

Defense attorney Michael Kimerer did not immediately respond to queries about when Milke could be released on bond. reports Milke's lawyers say her supporters will be able to post bond for her and that one had provided a house for her to live in as her retrial proceeds.

Authorities say Milke dressed her son Christopher in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989. Two men, Roger Scott and former Milke roommate James Styers, took the boy to the desert and shot him. Neither testified at Milke's trial, and both sit on death row.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office is again pursuing the death penalty against the 49-year-old Milke, who has maintained her innocence.

An alleged confession is at the heart of the prosecution case against her.

A police detective, Armando Saldate Jr., testified at Milke's trial that she confessed to him in a closed interrogation room.

Saldate's honesty was called into question during Milke's appeals. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that prosecutors' failure to turn over evidence related to Saldate's credibility deprived Milke's attorneys of the chance to question his truthfulness before jurors.

While Deputy County Attorney Vince Imbordino had argued that the purported confession is still admissible, Mroz said the undisclosed material concerning Saldate "casts serious doubt" on its validity.

The judge noted she has scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing on the defense's request to prohibit the prosecution from using the confession during the retrial.

"Much has transpired since the original trial," Mroz said.

Complete coverage of Debra Milke on Crimesider