Cases in which courts overturn convictions based on the flimsiness of the evidence are few and far between, much less when the conviction is a notorious murder case. What makes Milke v. Ryan (PDF) stand out even more is that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel that issued the opinion was not comprised of liberal judges. Here are the facts as described in the opinion:
In 1990, a jury convicted Debra Milke of murdering her four-year-old son, Christopher. The judge sentenced her to death. The trial was, essentially, a swearing contest between Milke and Phoenix Police Detective Armando Saldate, Jr. Saldate testified that Milke, twenty-five at the time, had confessed when he interviewed her shortly after the murder; Milke protested her innocence and denied confessing. There were no other witnesses or direct evidence linking Milke to the crime. The judge and jury believed Saldate, but they didn’t know about Saldate’s long history of lying under oath and other misconduct. The state knew about this misconduct but didn’t disclose it, despite the requirements of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87 (1963), and Giglio v. United States.
Judge Alex Kozinski, in concurrence, issued this strong rebuke:
No civilized system of justice should have to depend on such flimsy evidence, quite possibly tainted by dishonesty or overzealousness, to decide whether to take someone’s life or liberty. The Phoenix Police Department and Saldate’s supervisors there should be ashamed of having given free rein to a lawless cop to misbehave again and again, undermining the integrity of the system of justice they were sworn to uphold. As should the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which continued to prosecute Saldate’s cases without bothering to disclose his pattern of misconduct.
Here's the AP story.