Thursday, December 12, 2013

Meeting Debra Milke at the Madison Street Jail


The now vacant Madison Street Jail
The Bench where I interviewed Debra Milke 24 years ago
Me standing in front of that bench
Phoenix, AZ—In December of 1989 the Madison Street Jail was a relatively new state of the art jail.  It was built especially for accused criminals waiting for their day in court.  The prisoners could be walked safely to and from court in a tunnel below the street.
24 years later this jail sits abandoned and empty.  Maricopa County’s bureaucrats are not quite sure about the building’s future.  Being a aspiring filmmaker I want to see the place used for TV episodes and feature films.
Today I paid a visit to this somewhat ghostly facility.  I stopped to contemplate my first meeting with Debra Milke once I entered in the receiving area.  I quickly found the bench we sat on where I conducted an interview of the young accused mother.
Debra was dressed in a white, pink and grey jogging suit and I noticed that she had black fingerprint ink on her fingers.  She had just had her mug shot and fingerprints taken that’s part of the booking process for every new prisoner. 
This was probably one of the more important interviews of my career.  I had my hidden tape recorder and wanted to hear a confession that I’d later broadcast on TV news.  I got the interview but it was anything but a confession. 
Debra Milke was emotional and somewhat angry that anyone would believe she was involved in the murder of her son. 
I’d later learn that disgraced Phoenix homicide detective Armando Saldate prepared a report days later claiming in it that she had confessed to him.  The time that Saldate claimed Milke confessed was just hours before my taped interview.
24 years ago this area of the jail was noisy, clean and well lit.  Today the lights are dim and the place seems quiet, eerie and even haunted. 
While sitting on the bench again I had a surreal flashback at that amazing interview.  It was like I could feel Milke’s presence and experience her bewilderment and anxiety once again.  
Tomorrow Milke is set to appear before Judge Rosa Mroz who is hearing the arguments on Armando Saldate’s request to assert his right to remain silent in an effort to avoid self-incrimination.  If judge Mroz excuses Saldate this matter will finally end because Saldate’s perjury was the only evidence implicating Milke in the crime.
Stay tuned for another update.  

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