Murder. Coercion. Prosecutorial Misconduct.

Anatomy of a Confession is the story of the 1990 murder trial of Debra Milke. Two men—James Styers, a family friend and single father of a two year-old daughter, and his friend, Roger Scott—murdered Debra’s four year-old son in the Arizona desert. One of them implicated the boy’s mother.

Even before Debra was questioned, the police hung a guilty tag on her. Debra Milke spent twenty-three years on death row for the murder of her four year-old son based solely on a confession she never gave.

This is also the story of Detective Armando Saldate, his history of coercing confessions and violating Miranda standards, and the role the Phoenix Police Department played in the cover-up and misconduct in its handling of the Milke investigation.

Finally, Anatomy of a Confession examines the prosecutor who presumably knew about Detective Saldate’s past, that the “confession” was probably bogus, but also knew that without it, he had no case against Debra.

Like the very best of true crime narratives, Anatomy of a Confession is a vivid and shocking reminder of what America’s vaunted presumption of innocence is all about and how terribly wrong things can go when the criminal justice system is abused by the very people meant to uphold it.


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Milke-&-Saldate-arrest-1989“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury . . . nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb . . . nor shall be compelled in any Criminal Case to be a witness against himself; nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law . . .”

The Fifth Amendment To The United States Constitution

Learn more about Anatomy of a Confession: The Debra Milke Case