CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Friday, September 13, 2013

Death sentence overturned based on failure to disclose police detective's "history of misconduct"

The story is at

But those convictions and the related sentence were tossed out Thursday by a federal appeals court judge. In explaining his decision, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals chided the prosecution for remaining "unconstitutionally silent" on the "history of misconduct" of its key witness, a Phoenix police detective.

. . .

The detective testified he "didn't buy" Milke's reaction after he informed her that her son was dead. After that, Saldate said he placed Milke under arrest. In a subsequent interrogation, she confessed that her role in the murder conspiracy was a "bad judgment call," the detective said.

But Milke offered a vastly different view of the interrogation and denied that she had confessed to any role in a murder plot.

. . .

"The judge and jury believed Saldate," said Kozinski of the verdict and sentence. "But they didn't know about Saldate's long history of lying under oath and other misconduct."

Specifically, the judge noted that the detective had been suspended five days for taking "liberties" with a female motorist and lying about it to his supervisors; that judges had tossed out four confessions or indictments because Saldate had lied under oath; and that judges suppressed or vacated four confessions because Saldate had violated a person's constitutional rights.

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