Thursday, April 11, 2013

Should Former Prosecutor Noel Levy Face a Justice Department Civil Right’s Investigation?

Prosecutor Noel Levy during the trial of Debra Milke
Phoenix, AZ—The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued a scathing 60-page opinion condemning the actions of police and prosecutors in the Debra Milke murder case.  They reversed the death sentence and convictions.  They even went so far as to bring the U.S. Justice Department in to investigate what facilitated the wrongful conviction of Milke.
Phoenix Detective Armando Saldate was a rogue cop and a serial perjurer who was ardently protected by prosecutor Noel Levy from any examination of his police personnel records during the that sham of a trial.  Levy vigorously objected and prevented the defense from seeing the records that documented Saldate’s despicable prior history.   The judge in the case, Cheryl Hendrix ruled that the cop’s records were off limits to the defense and jury.
Today Levy claims he had no idea of Saldate’s shenanigans and shocking misconduct.  Levy’s self-serving denials don’t pass the smell test.  Saldate and his antics of claiming people confessed to him while avoiding tape recorders, witnesses or signed confessions were well known inside the prosecutor’s office.  That’s exactly why defense lawyer Ken Ray begged prosecutors and the court for that withheld material.
The veteran prosecutors of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office were part of a small but tight knit group.  Their collective actions during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s cost innocent people their freedom, reputations and sanity.  That also cost taxpayers millions of dollars.  There was a vicious prosecution, Culture of Corruption during that period that demands serious media and Justice Department scrutiny.
The current County Attorney, Bill Montgomery says that the 9th Circuit was somehow unfair to Noel Levy.  He’s also recently offered that there are now “steps in place” to prevent the things like what put Milke on Death Row.   Those steps he talks about were not some voluntary efforts but came as a result of repeated demands by the Arizona Defense Bar after redundant misconduct by cops and prosecutors.  Frankly those steps were too little and too late for Debra Milke. 
I would hope that the freedom of a long suffering innocent woman would be more important to our elected prosecutor than a simple investigation into some lawyer’s conduct.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne expects to file a request for an en Banc rehearing before the 9th Circuit Court by the 5:00 PM deadline today.  
Perhaps Tom Horn and Bill Montgomery’s office should conduct a comprehensive investigation of the Debra Milke case.  It’s the only right thing to do.  I do understand how they may not be able to get past old alliances and friendship with Noel Levy and former County Attorney Rick Romley.  If that’s the case they need to step aside and let the Justice Department do its job. 
In the mean time Debra Milke should be granted bail.  She’s an American citizen despite being born in Berlin to an American military serviceman and a German woman.  Milke has no history of criminality and has very strong and longstanding ties to the local community.  Milke also has legions of supporters throughout Europe after years of publicity there. There’s no basis to claim she’s a flight risk. After over 23 years on Death Row it is impossible for her to have a passport at least until she’s cleared.
Additionally there is no presumption or evident proof at this time as to her possible guilt that prosecutors can muster.  They are also well aware that Saldate will be invoking his right not to testify at any retrial.   These prosecutors must know full well that their case has evaporated and they now have a duty to let it go.





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