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Retrial set for Arizona mother convicted of son's 1989 murder

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A judge on Monday set a 2015 retrial date for an Arizona woman released from death row earlier this month after an appeals court overturned her conviction for murdering her 4-year-old son in 1989.

Debra Milke, 49, was released on $250,000 bail on Sep. 6, after spending more than 22 years on death row in connection with the murder of her son, Christopher, who was taken to the desert shortly before Christmas in 1989 and shot in the head.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out Milke's conviction in March, ruling prosecutors had denied her a fair trial by failing to disclose that a former Phoenix police detective, who testified that she had confessed to the crimes, had a history of lying under oath.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Rosa Mroz set the second trial for February 2 2015.

Prosecutors asserted at Milke's original trial that she had dressed Christopher up in his best outfit, told him he was going to see Santa Claus at a shopping mall and sent the boy off in the care of her roommate, James Styers.

Witnesses testified at the trial that Styers picked up his friend, Roger Scott, and instead of heading to the mall, the two men drove to a secluded ravine where Styers shot Christopher three times in the head. Both men were separately convicted of first-degree murder and remain on death row.

Milke was convicted in 1990 in part on the evidence of key prosecution witness, Detective Armando Saldate.

Saldate testified Milke had told him she had contemplated having an abortion while pregnant with Christopher, had complained to Styers about her son and conspired with Styers to have the boy slain.

The supposed confession was not recorded, nor was anyone else in the room when it was purportedly made. Milke denied during her trial that she made any confessions and has continued to maintain her innocence.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Bob Burgdorfer)

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