Saturday, March 16, 2013

Debra Milke and the injustice system

By Frank Moraes

This is a picture of Debra Milke. You can see she's a pretty woman but there is a lot of pain in that face. She has suffered a lot. Her 4-year-old son was murdered 23 years ago. And for the last 22 years, she's been on death row of taking part in his murder. She's innocent, of course. Hopefully, she will be released from prison very soon.

Milke is, of course, yet another example of the evilness of the death penalty. If most proponents of these laws had their way, Milke would be long dead. "I don't want to pay for them to sit in jail! Just kill the bastards!" Sadly, I've heard that time and again over the years—even from liberals. The government has a hard time keeping the roads free of potholes, but somehow it is perfect when it chooses to kill.

What is most appalling about the case of Debra Milke is how she was convicted. There was no physical evidence. There was no eyewitness evidence. There was just the claim by a cop that he "didn't buy" her reaction to hearing that her son had died. This was apparently enough to not only arrest and convict her; it was enough to sentence her to death.
The cop was Armando Saldate. He had a history of misconduct including multiple cases where he was caught lying under oath. (Note: cops lie under oath all the time; it is fairly rare that their lies are so outrageous that they are caught.) He claimed that the actual murderer told him that Milke hired him to kill her son. He also claimed that Milke confessed to him. None of this was recorded and somehow Saldate "lost" his notes. So basically, Saldate claimed that Milke was guilty because he said so. And the jury and the judge went right along with him.

The death penalty will always be flawed because humans are flawed. Every proponent of the death penalty who I know always brings up cases where a guy walks into a McDonald's and shoots someone with 50 eyewitnesses while being recording with 29 video cameras. I point out that these kinds of cases are always pleaded and almost never get the death penalty. It is people like Debra Milke who get the death penalty. And they respond that it shouldn't be that way and that the death penalty is totally great. Meanwhile innocent people continue to be murdered by our "justice" system.

Once Milke is released, these same proponents will say, "See: she was finally exonerated! And now she can sue!" Not really. She was exonerated after 22 years that these same proponents argue against. She had 22 years of false imprisonment. And if she is allowed to sue (and it is very likely she won't be allowed to), it will hardly make up for the injustice that was done to her.
(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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  • This is just one of many cases where prosecutors fail to introduce exculpatory evidence, in direct violation of what the Supreme Court has said that the Fifth Amendment requires.

    What's infuriating to me is that nothing ever happens to these prosecutors. They keep on prosecuting cases when they should be in jail.


    By Blogger Jeff S., J.D., at 10:43 AM  

  • @Jeff S., J.D. - I think it is worse than even that. The prosecutors get promotions and raises as a result of successful prosecutions--maybe not directly, but I'm sure it is in their employee file. After 22 years, it is almost certain that the prosecutor is retired.

    It's a funny thing. I understand the sophist tradition. But prosecutors should not simply be trying to win cases; they should be prosecuting people they truly think are guilty. I think after finding out this information, the prosecutor should have reevaluated whether the case should even have been prosecuted.

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 2:25 PM  

  • Agreed. A prosecutor's job should be to seek justice, but we all know that's not the case. Their job, as they see it, is to obtain a conviction, and some will go outside the bounds of the law to get it.

    By Blogger Jeff S., J.D., at 3:18 PM  

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