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Highland High School’s boys golf team was placed on a one-year probation by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) for violating a regulation that disallows players from playing on the state championship venue course after a certain date
PHOENIX (AP) — In a scathing critique of Arizona's criminal justice system, a state appeals court Thursday ordered the dismissal of murder charges against a woman who spent 22 years on death row for the killing of her 4-year-old son.
The Arizona Court of Appeals leveled harsh criticism against prosecutors over their failure to turn over evidence during Debra Jean Milke's trial about a detective with a long history of misconduct and lying. The court called prosecutors' actions "a severe stain on the Arizona justice system."
A three-judge panel of the appeals court said it agreed with Milke's argument that a retrial would amount to double jeopardy.
The failure to disclose the evidence "calls into question the integrity of the system and was highly prejudicial to Milke," the court wrote. "In these circumstances — which will hopefully remain unique in the history of Arizona law — the most potent constitutional remedy is required."
The court said the charges against Milke in the 1989 death of her son Christopher can't be refiled, but prosecutors could appeal Thursday's ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Authorities say Milke dressed her son in his favorite outfit and told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall in December 1989. He was then taken into the desert near Phoenix by two men and shot in the back of the head.
Authorities say Milke's motive was that she didn't want the child anymore and didn't want him to live with his father.
She was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to death. The case rested largely on her purported confession to Phoenix police Detective Armando Saldate, which he did not record.
Milke, 50, was on death row for two decades, and the Arizona Supreme Court had gone so far as to issue a death warrant for Milke in 1997. The execution was delayed because she had yet to exhaust federal appeals.
The appeals court said Thursday it wasn't expressing an opinion on Milke's guilt or innocence, though it heavily criticized authorities for staking much of their case on a detective with credibility problems.
A federal appeals court threw out Milke's first-degree murder conviction in March 2013, saying prosecutors knew about a history of misconduct by the detective but failed to disclose it. Maricopa County prosecutors were preparing for a retrial.
Milke's appellate attorney, Lori Voepel, was ecstatic at Thursday's victory.
"We're all thrilled," Voepel said. "We still have the gag order so we can't say much more than we're all thrilled with the opinion."
Milke has been free on bail since September 2013 as she awaited retrial.
"This is really a sock in the gut — it's a cheap shot," said Arizona Milke, Christopher's father and Debra Milke's ex-husband. "She shouldn't walk free, because she's guilty."
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, whose office is handling the case, said he plans to ask the Arizona Supreme Court to overturn Thursday's ruling. Montgomery said the accusations of misconduct happened well before he took over as the county's top prosecutor and would not happen today, citing safeguards such as having detectives record interviews with suspects.
Montgomery also said he would not be pursuing the case if he believed the evidence could not lead to a conviction in Christopher's killing.
"He should not be forgotten in all of this. Justice and due process for Christopher is a right that he has, too," Montgomery said. "And it's the job of prosecutors, unfortunately in situations like this, where we have to be the voice of the voiceless."
Milke has maintained her innocence and denied she ever confessed to the killing. The two men who led her child to his death in the desert were convicted of murder but refused to testify against Milke.
That left jurors with Saldate's word alone that she told him about her involvement. Saldate has since retired, and The Associated Press has made repeated efforts to reach him for comment.
In its ruling overturning Milke's conviction, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited numerous instances in which Saldate committed misconduct in previous cases, including lying under oath and violating suspects' rights. The federal appeals court also asked the Justice Department to investigate whether Saldate had committed civil rights violations.
Prosecutors insist Milke is guilty, but their ability to try her again was limited by the fact that Saldate said he wouldn't testify. He fears potential federal charges based on the 9th Circuit's accusations of misconduct.
In December, Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz granted Saldate's request to assert his Fifth Amendment right, allowing him to refuse to take the stand.
The state Court of Appeals overturned that ruling in April and said Saldate would be forced to testify at the retrial. Both county and federal authorities said they don't intend to seek charges against the detective based on any of the accusations leveled by the federal appeals court.
Milke, whose mother was a German who married a U.S. Air Force military policeman in Berlin in the 1960s, has drawn strong support from citizens of that nation and Switzerland, neither of which has the death penalty.
Milke's mother died in Germany this year after a battle with cancer. A week before the August death, a judge had denied Milke's request for permission to travel to Germany to visit her mother.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — It could be months before Arizona officials seek execution warrants for death-row inmates after a judge granted a joint request by the state and defense attorneys.
A judge on Monday put on hold a lawsuit challenging the secrecy of execution protocols in Arizona pending the investigation of the nearly two-hour execution of Joseph Rudolph Wood.
The agreement stipulates that the Arizona Department of Corrections will not seek any death warrants for death-row inmates until the lawsuit is resolved. Officials had already suspended executions pending the Wood investigation.
The mutual agreement also states that Arizona officials will consider changing execution protocols and make any possible changes public.
The July 23 execution of Wood, who was convicted of murdering his estranged girlfriend and her father, called into question the efficacy of the drugs used after it took nearly two hours for Wood to die. He gasped repeatedly before taking his final breath.
Wood's attorney, Dale Baich, says the execution was botched, which state officials adamantly deny. The agency has said it is not commenting on pending litigation.
The lawsuit was filed in June on behalf of Wood and other death-row inmates. It claims the inmates have a First Amendment right to know about specific execution protocols such as the types of drugs used in lethal injections and the companies that supply them.
The First Amendment Coalition of Arizona later joined the lawsuit, saying the information should be released to the public.
The secrecy that surrounds executions has been a source of contention since officials in states that have the death penalty stopped making public details such as the drug manufacturers and drug combinations in 2010. European drug companies had stopped supplying lethal injection drugs, and states said they were protecting the privacy of local suppliers.
A group of media organizations including The Associated Press has filed a separate lawsuit contending that the information is of public interest.
Wood was given 15 doses of the sedative midazolam and a painkiller before he died.
Finding evidence of false statements by sheriff's investigators, the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday gave the owner of a chain of Phoenix area restaurants a chance to undermine — and possibly escape — charges he knowingly hired undocumented workers.
PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix man accused of selling fake sexual stimulation products online has been sentenced to two years of supervised probation.
Maricopa County prosecutors say 68-year-old Melvin John Rutkowski was sentenced Monday for attempt to commit fraud schemes.
He originally pleaded not guilty in the case, but entered into a plea agreement.
Rutkowski was arrested in June on suspicion of fraud scheme, control of an illegal enterprise and counterfeit marks.
The Pfizer Corporation hired a private security company in April 2014 to help in the investigation of possible counterfeit Pfizer products being sold online.
The security company purchased Viagra from a website and Pfizer determined the product was counterfeit.
Phoenix police were contacted and detectives identified Rutkowski as a suspect.
Police executed a search warrant and recovered thousands of counterfeit pills.
LAVEEN, Ariz. - Authorities are investigating a possible dog- and cock-fighting ring in Laveen after 91 animals have been found living in poor conditions at the property.
Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies responded to a rural home near 79th Avenue and Baseline Road Tuesday afternoon to execute a search warrant.
Officials told ABC15 that investigators have found evidence of animal fighting, including an arena with beer cans nearby, leashes hanging from trees, multiple breeds of animals and rooster houses.
Investigators said 37 dogs were found at the property living in poor conditions. All the dogs appeared to be thin and mangy and there was no food or water in sight.
Deputies said they found one dog dead, and two horses collapsed when deputies tried to move them.
MCSO officials said they found several types of dogs at the scene including Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and even small dogs.
"Little dogs, cocker spaniels, poodles, chained up with heavy chains. That makes you wonder what they're being used for. Are they a training tool for the bigger dogs that are here?" questioned MCSO Deputy Joaquin Enriquez
Deputies say the dogs' owner Luis Garcia is now under arrest.
Investigators said he admitted he feeds the dogs pizza scraps if he has them. He also claims he rescues the dogs from the river beds.
Authorities said they have been investigating this property for an undetermined amount of time after neighbors reported activity at the property.
Thirteen people have been arrested and many more arrests are expected after a seven-month long drug and stolen property investigation centered in Gilbert.
Officials with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office found two dead rabbits at the Green Acre boarding facility, the same place where more than 20 dogs were found dead last month.
Authorities said on Wednesday that even if the air conditioning was working in a room at a Gilbert boarding facility where nearly two dozen dogs died last month, the air flow may not have been enough to keep the dogs alive.
Assistant Secretary of State Jim Drake ruled Wednesday there is enough evidence and uncontested allegations against Attorney General Tom Horne to merit a full-blown investigation into whether he has been using state resources and employees to campaign for reelection.
Jurors who convicted an Arizona woman of fatally beating her husband with a hammer are scheduled to resume their deliberations Thursday over whether she warrants the death penalty.
A bill in the Arizona Legislature to allow surprise inspections of abortion clinics has been described by supporters as a vital tool for health inspectors, who now must get a warrant to make unannounced searches of abortion providers.
While executing a search warrant Monday, detectives discovered videos of the 47-year-old and two different women separately performing various sex acts with Jackson's male German Shepherd.
A Chandler man arrested earlier this month for branding a woman's genitals was re-arrested on charges of bestiality, according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
NEW YORK — There's extensive evidence that pigs are as smart and sociable as dogs. Yet one species is afforded affection and respect; the other faces mass slaughter en route to becoming bacon, ham and pork chops.
WASHINGTON — In the months and early years after 9/11, FBI agents began showing up at Microsoft Corp. more frequently than before, armed with court orders demanding information on customers.
Phoenix police arrested several people over the weekend accused of stealing purses, IDs and various other valuables from cars left at Phoenix trailheads.
It’s official: Jodi Arias is guilty of 1st Degree Murder in the death of Travis Alexander.
PHOENIX – Gov. Jan Brewer’s plan to simplify Arizona’s sales tax system could undercut revenues for growing communities through changes in how construction materials are taxed, according to a report by the nonprofit Grand Canyon Institute.
A man has been arrested for allegedly selling stolen property at his mini-mart store in Phoenix.
State lawmakers on Wednesday gave the first clearance to a measure designed to require police to get search warrants before they use drones to gather evidence.
Boy, do I feel sorry for smokers these days.
No stone goes unturned in high school football playoffs, a combination of a week’s worth of preparation, pressure to win and, consequently, borderline-neuroticism on the part of coaches. But what happens when schools meet a second time around?
Authorities say more than 20,000 units and 50 pounds of the synthetic drug known as Spice or K2 has been seized in Phoenix and Scottsdale.
Looper is a time traveling thriller that reminds us that classic science fiction doesn’t come from quality visuals or the biggest explosions. There’s no denying that “Looper” is an exquisitely crafted picture with some heart pounding action set pieces. But the reason the film warrants such praise is because of its inspired ideas, brilliant execution, and the involving characters we follow along the way. Director and writer Rian Johnson obviously had a clear artistic vision going into this project and never allowed the studio or conventions to stand in his way. His product is one of the slickest and smartest movies about time travel in a long time.