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Arizona judge won't oust prosecutors in Debra Milke case

PHOENIX -- A judge has refused to disqualify the Maricopa County Attorney's Office from the case of an Arizona woman whose conviction in the killing of her 4-year-old son was overturned because the same office years ago didn't disclose prior misconduct by a police detective.

In a ruling signed Monday and released Tuesday, Judge Rosa Mroz of Maricopa County Superior Court rejected the disqualification request by Debra Milke's lawyers.

Milke attorney Michael Kimerer said his client doesn't plan an appeal. That leaves Milke, 49, headed toward a Sept. 30 retrial in the death more than two decades ago of her son, Christopher.

Her attorneys argued County Attorney Bill Montgomery's Office pursued the case because the office was biased, for political and other reasons. The office denied the allegation.

Milke's conviction was overturned in March after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found prosecutors hadn't turned over evidence of misconduct by a police detective.

Milke has maintained her innocence, denying she admitted to the crime. However, the detective testified that Milke confessed to him when they were alone in an interrogation room. The interview wasn't recorded.

The appeals court ruling said the evidence of misconduct by the detective in other cases could have been used by Milke's lawyers to challenge the since-retired law officer's testimony in her case.

In her ruling, Mroz said it was pure speculation by Milke's lawyers that Montgomery's office would retry the case for improper reasons. And there is no record of any recent pattern by the office of violating rules on disclosing evidence, Mroz said.

The judge also said prosecutors have a duty to see that justice is done, and that judges can't presume prosecutors would seek a conviction "at all costs."

Mroz also rejected the suggestion by Milke's lawyers that Montgomery's office wanted to protect the case's original prosecutor, who has since retired.

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