Debra Milke was accused in 1989 and later convicted of dressing up her 4-year-old son in his favorite outfit and cowboy boots to go see Santa Claus -- but instead marched him off to be shot execution-style in the desert.
Milke's guilt was largely based on testimony from a detective, Armando Saldate, who said she confessed to him she killed her son.
Milke's defense team said Saldate has a history of lying about suspect confessions -- including allegedly extracting them from people who were unconscious, The Arizona Republic of Phoenix said Monday.
Milke denies confessing. There were no witnesses or recordings of her conversation with Saldate.
Evidence suggesting Saldate may have made up the confession was not allowed to be presented at trial, prompting a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to toss out Milke's conviction. Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne petitioned the full Ninth Circuit to review the decision to exonerate Milke. They were denied.
Horne must now determine if there is any new evidence suggesting Milke should remain on death row. If not, she will either be set free or the state must charge her again and begin trial proceedings anew.