For 22 years, a mom has been sitting on death row, haunted by a murder conviction. They said she was in on a plot to murder her 4-year-old son. Well, this week, Debra Milke's murder conviction was overturned.
She's free to leave the Arizona prison where she expected to end her life. Talk about a bittersweet victory.
Debra Milke will not be executed by the State of Arizona, and she now gets to walk free.
But let's be clear: that's a good thing ... not a great thing.
Really, what is there for this woman to celebrate?
Her little boy is still dead. That can't be undone.
He was murdered in 1990 by her roommate, James Styers, and a friend. The two men were supposed to be taking little Christopher Milke to see Santa Claus at the mall. Instead they drove him to a secluded ravine, and Styers shot the child in the head.
Styers confessed and was sentenced to death. The only reason Debra Milke was brought up on charges was because of a police detective who swore that Styers implicated her in the boy's death. Styers denied he ever said it, but who was a jury going to believe? A guy who shot a child in the head or a police detective?
Turns out they shoulda gone with the guy who shot the kid. The detective was a lying sack of you-know-what. That's why a judge overturned Milke's conviction this week.
So here we are, 22 years later. Debra Milke has a dead child. She's spent 22 years in prison with the world thinking she killed her kid.
What does she get now? How do you repay her?
This is one of the biggest problems with our justice system. When it gets things right, it's the best thing going. But when it gets things wrong, it gets them spectacularly wrong, and there's no undoing it.
You can overturn a conviction, but you can't undo 22 years in prison. You can't give a woman her life back.
I would like to pump my fists and celebrate justice finally served, but all I feel is the deepest sorrow on behalf of Debra Milke. She didn't win anything this week. She just didn't lose again.
What should be done for Debra Milke? Is there any way to repay her for what's been done to her?
Image via Arizona Department of Corrections