German-born woman freed from death row

A German-born woman, who has been on death row in the United States for more than 20 years, has had her conviction overturned by a San Francisco Court of Appeals.

German-born woman freed from death row
Photo: DPA

Debra Milke, the daughter of a German mother and American father, was convicted by a court in Arizona in 1990 for plotting to have her four-year-old son killed.

The child had been taken on an outing by a man then living with Milke on the understanding, she claimed, that he was going to see Santa Claus in a shopping centre. However the man and an accomplice drove the child to a remote ravine, where he was shot dead. Both men were sentenced to death.

Milke had always maintained her innocence. The Arizona court that convicted her in 1990 had relied solely on the testimony of a detective, who claimed she had confessed to the crime. No written or recorded evidence of the supposed confession has ever been produced and it has since emerged that the individual in question had a track record of lying under oath, as well as a history of other misconduct.

According to judge Alex Kozinski of the San Francisco Court of Appeals, Milke did not receive a fair trial and there was no evidence to suggest she had any involvement in the death of her son.

Kozinksi criticized prosecutors for remaining “unconstitutionally silent” about the detective’s history of deceit. Since the conviction has been overturned, Milke will be released from prison unless the state pushes for a retrial.

Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has said he will personally argue on the state’s behalf if the case goes to the US Supreme Court. In a written statement, he said that Milke had been found guilty of a “horrible crime” and that the Court of Appeals’ decision “needs to be reversed.”

Neither Milke’s defense team nor the jury in Arizona had been aware that previous judges had discarded four confessions made by the detective because of his history of lying under oath.

DPA/The Local/kkf

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Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

The German government says it is in talks over further compensation for victims of the attack on the Munich Olympics, as the 50th anniversary of the atrocity approaches.

Germany in talks on further payout for 1972 Olympics victims

Ahead of the commemoration in September, relatives of the Israelis killed have indicated they are unhappy with what Germany is offering.

“Conversations based on trust are taking place with representatives of the victims’ families,” a German interior ministry spokesman told AFP when asked about the negotiations.

He did not specify who would benefit or how much money had been earmarked, saying only that any package would “again” be financed by the federal government, the state of Bavaria and the city of Munich.

On September 5th, 1972, eight gunmen broke into the Israeli team’s flat at the Olympic village, shooting dead two and taking nine Israelis hostage, threatening to kill them unless 232 Palestinian prisoners were released.

West German police responded with a bungled rescue operation in which all nine hostages were killed, along with five of the eight hostage-takers and a police officer.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists  held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972.

An armed police officer in a tracksuit secures the block where terrorists held Israeli hostages at the Olympic Village in Munich on 5th September 1972. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Horst Ossingert

The spokeswoman for the victims’ families, Ankie Spitzer, told the German media group RND that the amount currently on the table was “insulting” and threatened a boycott of this year’s commemorations.

She said Berlin was offering a total of €10 million including around €4.5 million already provided in compensation between 1972 and 2002 — an amount she said did not correspond to international standards. 

“We are angry and disappointed,” said Spitzer, the widow of fencing coach Andre Spitzer who was killed in the attack. “We never wanted to talk publicly about money but now we are forced to.”

RND reported that the German and Israeli governments would like to see an accord by August 15th.

The interior ministry spokesman said that beyond compensation, Germany intended to use the anniversary for fresh “historical appraisal, remembrance and recognition”.

He said this would include the formation of a commission of German and Israeli historians to “comprehensively” establish what happened “from the perspective of the year 2022”.

This would lead to “an offer of further acts of acknowledgement of the relatives of the victims of the attack” and the “grave consequences” they suffered.