UPDATE

Woman who spent 22 years on death row in Arizona speaks out

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Debra Milke, left, after a judge dismissed her murder case on Monday, March 23, 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Debra Milke, left, after a judge dismissed her murder case on Monday, March 23, 2015. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Debra Milke speaking for first time since charges were dropped. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Debra Milke speaking for first time since charges were dropped. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Attorney Michael Kimerer and Debra Milke Attorney Michael Kimerer and Debra Milke
Attorney Michael Kimerer Attorney Michael Kimerer
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -

An Arizona woman who spent 22 years on death row in her son's killing before her conviction was overturned says she suffered two tragedies when the 4-year-old was fatally shot.

Debra Milke, 51, said in a prepared statement that she has suffered from both her son Christopher's 1989 death and from a detective's false claim that she confessed to the crime. She spoke more in-depth at a news conference on Tuesday.

"I live with an abiding sense of loss and a chunk of my heart is gone, but Christopher's spirit is with me always, which is a comfort to the remaining pieces of my heart," Milke said. "Being convicted of a crime you didn't commit is also a devastating tragedy."

At the news conference, she described her son Christopher who meant the world to her.

"He was such a sweet and affectionate child, he loved to be silly and make others laugh," Milke said. "Often I hear his cute little laugh in my head."

Milke said Christopher had a darling smile that sometimes made it hard for her to say 'no' to him. One of his favorite things to do was pedal his big wheels.

During Tuesday's news conference, Milke also thanked her attorneys for their tireless work on the case.

"I am profoundly grateful for my awesome lawyers who lived and breathed my case for over a decade," Milke said.

Milke has maintained her innocence and denied that she confessed to the murder to the case's lead detective, Armando Saldate.

"Debra did not stand a chance without a recorder or a witness," said Lori Voepel, one of Milke's attorneys.

An appeals court overturned Milke's conviction after ruling that prosecutors failed to disclose a history of misconduct by Saldate.

One of Milke's attorneys, Michael Kimerer, said Monday that he is still in disbelief that "a long, long journey with so many ups and downs" ended with his client's freedom.

"She was innocent. It was all based upon a police officer that just totally lied," Kimerer said outside court. "To see her free today and totally free and exonerated, it's an unbelievable feeling - just unbelievable."

"What happened here to Debra Milke is an outrage and a stain on our criminal justice system," Kimerer said Tuesday.

Kimerer said the "unsung hero" in this case is the courts.

James Styers and Roger Scott, the two men who led Christopher to his death, have been on death row and have refused to testify against Milke.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

  • UPDATEWoman who spent 22 years on death row in Arizona speaks outMore>>

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    Tuesday, March 24 2015 3:26 PM EDT2015-03-24 19:26:32 GMT
    Attorney Michael Kimerer and Debra MilkeAttorney Michael Kimerer and Debra Milke
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