A retired Phoenix police detective whose credibility was attacked in a now-dismissed murder case that sent an Arizona woman to death row for 22 years has lost his bid to refuse to answer certain questions in her wrongful-conviction lawsuit.
The detective, Armando Saldate, had agreed to answer questions about the investigation that led to Debra Milke's conviction in the 1989 killing of her 4-year-old son, Christopher. But Saldate did not want to give up his right to decline questions about misconduct allegations against him.
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His request to decline questions about matters not directly tied to the criminal case was denied Thursday. U.S. District Judge Roslyn Silver said the request may be premature and would have to offer more facts in the future to support any refusal to answer questions.
Lawyers for Saldate had said he would refuse all questions in Milke's lawsuit, including those about her criminal case, if his request was not granted. A message seeking comment left for Lori Berke, one of Saldate's attorneys, was not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
Authorities said 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 by two men and shot in the back of the head.
The criminal case against Milke rested on her purported confession to Saldate, who did not record the interrogation. Milke vigorously disputed that she confessed and insists she is innocent.
James Lynn Styers, Milke's roommate, and his friend Roger Mark Scott are on death row for carrying out the killing, while Milke had been convicted of ordering Christopher's death. Authorities say Milke's motive was that she did not want the child anymore and did not want him to live with his father.
Milke was released from prison in September 2013 after her conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court.
The court ruled prosecutors knew about but failed to disclose Saldate's history of misconduct, including rulings in other cases that Saldate either lied under oath or violated suspects' rights during interrogations. He was suspended after he stopped a female motorist in 1973 and "took liberties" with her before agreeing to meet her later for sex, according to the ruling.
His lawyers, who are concerned that Saldate might be prosecuted on the misconduct allegations, cited Saldate's right not to give testimony that could incriminate himself in a written response to part of Milke's lawsuit focusing on the misconduct allegations. The attorneys do not want Saldate to answer questions about the allegations at the civil trial and depositions.
Prosecutors had sought a criminal retrial of Milke, but were ultimately barred from doing so by the courts.
Milke filed a 2015 lawsuit against the city of Phoenix, Maricopa County and others alleging that she was wrongfully convicted based on a confession fabricated by Saldate. She is seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages.