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US: German death row mum freed - for now

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US: German death row mum freed - for now
Photo: DPA
11:07 CEST+02:00
A US court which ordered a last-minute retrial of a German woman - who was due to be freed after decades on death row - said on Thursday that she could leave prison until the hearing.

Debra Milke was convicted by a court in Arizona in 1990 for plotting to have her four-year-old son killed. In March, the court threw out the case and said that the native Berliner could leave prison, but on the day of her release a retrial was ordered.

On Thursday, the Arizona court said the 49-year-old would be released after 23 years on death row pending re-trial after all, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.

She will appear in court again on September 30 and until then will be allowed out, albeit under electronic monitoring and with a bond of $250,000. The defence pushed for it to be set at $50,000.

Her case was initially thrown out after it emerged that the sole evidence against her – the claim by ex-police officer Armando Saldate that Milke had confessed to the crime – was unreliable because Saldate had an extensive history of lying under oath.

In 1989, Milke's son was taken on an outing by a man who was living with them at the time on the understanding, she claimed, that he was going to see Santa Claus in a shopping centre. Instead, the man and an accomplice drove the child to the desert, where he was shot dead.

Both men, who blamed each other for the crime, were sentenced to death and are approaching the end of their appeals.

Milke has always maintained her innocence. The Arizona court that convicted her in 1990 had relied solely on the testimony of the police officer.

No written or recorded evidence of the supposed confession has ever been produced and it has since emerged that the officer had a history of other misconduct.

According to the March ruling of 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 officer's history of deceit.

The Local/jcw/kkf

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