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Arizona woman who spent more than 20 years on death row awaits release to prepare for retrial

An Arizona woman who has spent more than two decades on death row awaited her release yesterday, a day after a judge ruled that there was no direct evidence linking her to her son’s death other than a purported confession to a detective whose honesty has been questioned.

Debra Milke has not been exonerated, but a judge granted her $250,000 bond Thursday, meaning she could go free while preparing for a new trial in the 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. She has been imprisoned since 1990.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Milke would probably be released, but the exact timing remained unclear.

A defense lawyer told the judge last week that Milke would be living in a Phoenix-area home purchased by supporters if she is freed.

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