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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

US Broken justice Milke case illustrates

Entrenched pattern: Reckless disregard for life
Editing, Commentary by Carolyn Bennett

 came across this story the other day at Spiegel Online and it haunts me as it should haunt you if for no other reason than because it brings to mind the ingrained brokenness in another US system that is long overdue for housecleaning and overall.

She is a daughter of Germany. She is also the daughter of a US veteran who disparaged her at court. In prison prisoners demeaned her; and a US injustice system robbed her of the better part of her life—all based on “too-easy evidence,” false testimony, and a deeply flawed, entrenched state and local judiciary and prosecutorial apparatus. This daughter of Germany came close to losing her life entirely.

For two decades in the US death-row system of perverted justice, Debra Jean Milke suffered immeasurable harm but one particular abuse was, in my view, unspeakably, sadistic. As described by Der Spiegel who interviewed her, the Arizona penal system placed Debra Milke “in solitary confinement for 22 years,” robbing her of much of her life and “… treated [her] like a monster, locked up in the labyrinth of the US justice system, a system in which the more you know about it, the less you understand.” But as final appeals were running their course in a slowly moving system—whose timing is itself torture, an added layer of injustice— she was repeatedly driven nearly out of her mind.

 Debra Milke described an offense that has to be the ultimate in cruelty, a calculated “dry run” toward state murder.

“They call it a ‘dry run,’ the test run for death—electric chair or lethal injection,” she said.

“As soon as an execution date has been set, you have to answer a lot of questions, which alone is enough to scare you to death: What happens to my body? Who gets my belongings?”

She said her “…cell was searched every evening to make sure I wasn’t hiding anything I could have used to kill myself.

“Then there was this doctor in a white coat tying off my right arm with a flexible tube and running his fingers along my elbow”, who said he was “‘checking to see how healthy your veins are.’”

Debra Milke had committed no crime yet an Arizona jury had found her guilty based on false testimony and no direct evidence. It took 22 years of a woman’s life on death row for one of the most influential US appellate courts, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — the U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the District of Arizona— to right a wrong.
The singular testimony that led to the Arizona jury’s conviction of Debra Milke was of a rogue police officer with his own rap sheet: “a long history of misconduct,” including “lying under oath.” Prosecutors had been aware of the “list of sins” attributable to Detective Armando Saldate Jr. but, the Spiegel article reported, they “concealed” his record from the Milke jury. But in discovery of the Ninth Circuit, “the judges listed many cases prior to Debra Milke’s trial in which Saldate had lied, used unorthodox methods to obtain confessions, broken the law and framed suspects.”

In one case, “Saldate obtained a confession from a man who was in the hospital with a fractured skull and couldn’t even remember his own name.” In another case, the detective reportedly had “interrogated a suspect who was on artificial respiration, was being given intravenous infusions and repeatedly lost consciousness; [yet] Saldate shook the seriously injured man in order to get him to talk.”

he court was outraged by such perversion of justice and behavior of those sworn to uphold law.  The judges called shame on the Phoenix Police Department and the detective’s supervisors for “having given free rein to a lawless cop to misbehave again and again, [thus] undermining the integrity of the system of justice they were sworn to uphold.…

Whose right to life?
‘No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone’s life or liberty.…’

 country that lays claim to a ridiculous notion of “exceptionalism” and whose leaders often lecture other countries on “human rights” has, as Spiegel rightly point out, “the largest prison population in the world” and right now almost “3,000 people” on death row—“waiting to be poisoned, gassed or hanged, or executed in the electric chair or by a firing squad.”
In a public-private system where prison turns a hefty profit, as war turns a hefty, often hidden profit—the innocent who come under America’s hand often “end up in prison and on death row,” or dead.

Debra Milke was innocent. But on January 18, 1991, an Arizona court sentenced her to death. Had the state gotten away with it, they would have executed her on January 29, 1998. She suffered miserably but thanks to a supportive German mother and an able defense team she was able to live and obtain a first stage of release, with ankle bracelet beginning on September 6, 2013, followed by a full release on March 23, 2015.
Current estimates of the number of inmates held in United States solitary confinement: minimum held at any given time 20,000 with estimates up to 80,000.
The United States of America is among the 18 percent or 36 member states of the United Nations that still uses the barbaric death penalty. [Wikipedia]
 I have often thought what a person never wants is to, in any way, come into the criminal justice system of the United States. But that is not enough, is it? The system itself—or rather the people running it, comprising, powering it all over the United States—must change.

For a people who never tire of telling other people how much they believe in the “right to life,” boasting of their “values” and how much they value life—their behavior, in matters domestic and foreign, directly contradicts their words. Their behavioral pattern exemplifies a devaluing of and disrespect for life—a reckless disregard for human life.

Sources and notes

“The American Nightmare: Debra Milke Recounts Life on Death Row” by Clemens Höges and Antje Windmann, translated from the German by Christopher Sultan, April 16, 2015, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/Debra-milke-recalls-her-years-on-death-row-a-1027584.html

Debra Jean Milke (b. March 10, 1964, in Berlin, Germany) was a US citizen innocent of a crime but wrongly convicted of murder, placed on death, and after 22 years “exonerated.”

In 1990, Debra Milke was convicted of the murder (complicity in the murder) of her son Christopher Conan Milke. On September 6, 2013, she was released on bond (and wearing ankle bracelets). On March 23, 2015, the case was formally dismissed.

The wrongful conviction of Debra Milke “rested on the testimony of disgraced Phoenix police detective Armando Saldate.” Also convicted in the case were Roger Scott and Jim Styers, both sentenced to death; neither of these men testified at Milke’s trial. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debra_Milke


Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the Ninth Circuit is the largest of the thirteen courts of appeals, with 29 active judgeships. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a U.S. Federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the district courts in the following districts:

District of Alaska
District of Arizona
Central District of California
Eastern District of California
Northern District of California
Southern District of California
District of Hawaii
District of Idaho
District of Montana
District of Nevada
District of Oregon
Eastern District of Washington
Western District of Washington

It also has appellate jurisdiction over the following territorial courts:
District of Guam
District of the Northern Mariana Islands

Death Penalty 
  • Of the 195 independent states that are United Nations members or have UN observer status:
  • 103 (53%) have abolished it for all crimes; 6 (3%) have abolished, but retain it for exceptional or special circumstances (such as crimes committed in wartime);
  • 50 (26%) retain, but have not used it for at least 10 years or are under a moratorium;
  • 36 (18%) retain it in both law and practice. [Update: March 2015]

Current use of the Death Penalty

Afghanistan ·
 Bahamas ·
 Bangladesh ·
 Belarus ·
 Botswana ·
 China ·
 Cuba ·
 Egypt ·
 Guatemala ·
 India ·
 Indonesia ·
 Iran ·
 Iraq ·
 Japan ·
 Jordan ·
 North Korea ·
 South Korea ·
 Lebanon ·
 Malaysia ·
 Pakistan ·
 Russia ·
 Saudi Arabia ·
 Singapore ·
 Somalia ·
 Sri Lanka ·
 Syria ·
 Taiwan ·
 Tajikistan ·
 Thailand ·
 Tonga ·
 United Arab Emirates ·
 United States ·
 Vietnam ·


Death Row

“In the United States, prisoners may wait years before execution can be carried out due to the complex and time-consuming appeals procedures mandated in the jurisdiction. The time between sentencing and execution has increased relatively steadily between 1977 and 2010, including a 22% jump between 1989 and 1990 and a similar jump between 2008 and 2009. 

In 2010, a death row inmate waited an average of 178 months (or close to 15 years) between sentencing and execution. Nearly a quarter of deaths on death row in the U.S. are due to natural causes. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_row

Solitary Confinement use in United States

“In the US Federal Prison system, solitary confinement is known as the Special Housing Unit (SHU),[16] pronounced like ‘shoe’ (/ˈʃuː/). California's prison system also uses the abbreviation SHU, but it stands for Security Housing Units. In other states, it is known as the Special Management Unit (SMU).

“Current estimates of the number of inmates held in solitary confinement are difficult to determine, though generally the minimum held at any given time has been determined to be 20,000, with estimates as high as 80,000.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solitary_confinement#Solitary_confinement_in_the_United_States


A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora


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