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Judge frees Arizona mother on death row for 22 years

| Friday, Sept. 6, 2013, 8:24 p.m.
In this Aug. 1, 2013 file photo, Debra Jean Milke listens to a judge during a hearing as she awaits a retrial in the 1989 shooting death of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, at Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. A judge is allowing Milke to be released on bail as she awaits retrial in the 1989 killing of her young son, a case that had her on death row since 1990 until her conviction was overturn this year.

PHOENIX — An Arizona woman who spent more than two decades on death row was released on bond on Friday when a judge ruled there's no direct evidence linking her to the death of her young son, other than a purported confession to a detective whose honesty has been questioned.

Supporters of Debra Milke posted a $250,000 bond and she walked out of the Maricopa County Sheriff's jail.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her conviction in March, stating that prosecutors should have disclosed information that cast doubt on the credibility of a since-retired detective who said Milke confessed.

The 49-year-old Milke has not been exonerated, but a judge said she could go free while preparing for a new trial in a case that made her one of Arizona's most reviled inmates.

Milke was convicted in the death of her 4-year-old son, Christopher, who was allegedly killed for a $5,000 insurance payout. His mother was accused of dressing the boy in his favorite outfit in December 1989 and telling him he was going to see Santa Claus at a mall before handing him over to two men who took the child into the desert and shot him.

A defense lawyer told the judge last week that Milke would live in a Phoenix-area home purchased by supporters.

Prosecutors declined to comment on Milke's possible release and have not appealed the bond order.

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