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Waiting for Death in Mississippi

Radley Balko at the Agitator is creating a much-needed storm over Cory Maye:

Maye today sits on Mississippi's death row, convicted of capital murder for shooting police officer Ron Jones. It's probably worth mentioning that Jones is white, and Maye is black. It's probably also worth mentioning that at the time of his death, Jones' father was police chief of Prentiss, Mississippi, where the shooting took place. It's probably also worth mentioning that the jury who convicted Maye was white.

The facts are also riveting: A no-knock search warrant executed on a duplex -- a drug dealer lived on one side and Maye on the other.

Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frigthened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

Radley isn't letting this one go. He has an update here.

Instapundit adds:

If the facts are as he reports, this guy never should have been charged -- and he should have had a lawsuit (though those, unreasonably, are usually losers) against the police for breaking down the wrong door. The cop who was shot was the police chief's son. And there's a racial angle, too.

The Hattisburg American reported during the trial (1/23/04) that Maye testified in his own defense:

The man accused of killing Prentiss police officer Ron Jones in December 2001 testified Thursday that he didn't know Jones was a law enforcement officer when he shot him.

Cory Maye, 23, said he was asleep on a chair in the living room of his Prentiss apartment as his 14-month-old daughter slept in the bedroom when he heard a loud crash at his front door. "I immediately ran to my daughter's room, got a pistol, put in a magazine and chambered a round," said Maye, who is on trial for capital murder in Marion County. "As I laid on the floor by the bed, I heard kicks at the back door. I was frightened, I thought someone was trying to break in on me and my daughter."

Maye testified that it was dark in his apartment when he heard someone breaking into the back door, which was located in the bedroom. "That's when I fired the shots," Maye said. "After I fired the shots, I heard them yell 'police! police!' Once I heard them, I put the weapon down and slid it away. I did not know they were police officers."

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  • Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:50 PM EST
    I had the same fact patten here in ohio except a kindly old man named Albert Bonar was killed by the drug task force who kicked in his door. I called a public meeting. the sherrif, county prosecutor, and trigger came. The citizens were very angry. I'd turn up the publicity on this one.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#2)
    by svolich on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:50 PM EST
    This is a case - like Kelo vrs. New London - that both the right and left can agree on. It does need publicity, and it needs money. So I will pledge $1000 to a defense fund to pay for a (real) lawyer. If a fund goes together, I can be reached at sq2000 at bigfoot dot com. Hopefully, the ACLU and the NRA can put aside their day-to-day battles and get behind this guy. He deserves it.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:50 PM EST
    What kind of chance does a guy like Cory Maye have of climbing out of this pit he's been thrown into by circumstance, bad luck, flat out bigotry and hatred, and what appears to be CYA by all authorities involved? And what has happened to his 18 month old daughter? Is she now in state custody, a foster home, or what? What becomes of her? I see no mention of a mother or any other relatives in these stories. Her father sits on death row as his payment for what looks like rightful defence of himself, his home, and his daughter. Without intense publicity and support what chance does he have?

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:50 PM EST
    Svolich is right, we need to do something to help this guy. I'd be in $100 if we can get a law fund started for this guy. If the facts are as presented, Maye had every right to shoot the cop and the cops had no right to search Maye's home. Regardless of whether he had trace amounts of pot, the simple fact is that the cops had NO right being there. Let's help this guy. ^billy

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    This story needs wide dissemination. If the facts as presented bear out--and I've found Balko to be very reliable--then a terrible injustice is unfolding. Our rights are not hostage to the whims of local officials. Hell yes I'll put money into a defense/media fund. More, I'll donate my time to this. I'm a lobbyist/pr consultant. I can confirm this unites a broad spectrum. I don't have a leftist gene in my body, but this story reminds me that many things are too important to be filtered through politics. Let's get moving on this.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#6)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    I've lived in a duplex: They are one house, usually seperated by nothing but a tissue-thin wall which does NOT keep noise out of the other side. Now, there are obviously reasons to make a narrow, legal distinction between one side of the same house versus another. But that doesn't magically transport it to the other side of the planet. So, if there's a frigging RAID on the other side of the house, a jury might concievably believe that any shouts of 'police!' uttered on the other side could be heard by the occupant. Sound doesn't stop travelling because it's meant for the other occupant. So we'd need a idea of the layout of the house. Knowing weather the bedroom light was on at the time might be nice too. If you see a guy in riot gear with POLICE emblazoned on the front, it probably isn't a mugger. But you do not know these things... VITAL things without which a judgement would be irresponsible. Doesn't stop you from second-guessing the jury who presuably DID know these things, however.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    Waxxman-- The police do not have the right to walk into your house unannounced, regardless of the fact that they are the police, unless they have very special circumstances. Trespassing is trespassing, no matter who it is, and a person has the right to defend their home and their property. The police should have done their research to know it was a duplex, and know where they could enter and where they couldn't--the burden of complying correctly with the warrant is on them. We do not expect a man to wake up in the middle of the night to loud noises and the sound of someone breaking into his apartment and think he should consider that those entering are cops. (Also, as stated elsewhere, this was a "no knock" raid, which presumably means the police didn't announce themselves on the other side either.)

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#8)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    waxxman,
    Doesn't stop you from second-guessing the jury who presuably DID know these things, however.
    Normally I'm all for deferring to the jury. But sometimes:
    Maye's attorney tells me that after the trial, she spoke with two jurors by phone. She learned from them that the consensus among jurors was that Maye was convicted for two reasons. The first is that though they initially liked her, Maye's lawyer, the jury soured on her when, in her closing arguments, she intimated that if the jury showed no mercy for Maye, God might neglect to bestow mercy on them when they meet him in heaven. They said the second reason May was convicted was that the jury felt he'd been spoiled by his mother and grandmother, and wasn't very respectful of elders and authority figures.
    Jurors are just stupid people sitting in a box.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#9)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    We do not expect a man to wake up in the middle of the night to loud noises and the sound of someone breaking into his apartment and think he should consider that those entering are cops.
    And of course, the guy on the other side, if he had shot the cop, he'd properly be on death row, with the SOLE distinction being that the paperwork was in order. Riiiight. Ok.
    The police should have done their research to know it was a duplex
    Oh, good. More jobs, I can get hired as a raid reseacher. Maybe I can file some environmental impact statements if flashbangs are used. At least we'll have a layout of the local sewer system if the suspect escapes down the toilet.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#10)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    The NRA will not touch this one. Their good relationship with various police organizations is too valuable.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#11)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    Admittedly, the 'raid researcher' crack was pure sarcasm aimed at people who demand absolute perfection from police, yet simultaneously think that firing gunshots at unidentified objects is OK if you don't have a Badge of Opression and Evil. So, that makes 2 comments since I've stated that you don't even know if the lights were on, and no one appears to know, but heck they know better than the jury anyway, it's just so OBVIOUS. Instead, we get a heresay account of 2 jurors who allegedly voted guitly because they didn't like a preachy lawyer or his momma's boy client. Umm Hmm. Riiight. And of course, they only came to this realization of why they convicted AFTER the verdict because...? It's never occured to you that those 2 jurors had a crisis of conscience simply based on the idea of executing ANYONE, even a murderer? You don't think that ever happens? Or that such a person would say just about anything (off record, anonymously, not under oath, through a third party), including ridiculous tales about sentencing a man to death because he wasn't "respectful of elders and authority figures"??? My god. Skepticism is dead. You go ahead, beleive what you want to believe and for pete's sake don't never ever let the facts get in the way of a perfectly constructed morality tale.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#12)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    Disclaimer: If the facts are as you imaginge they MIGHT be, then I agree there is no question that the man should be released. If (but ONLY if) the room was dark and there was no shout of 'police!' before the shot, he could not have formed a motive to kill a policeman, therefore at the very LEAST the death penalty CANNOT be applied. Period.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    He was convicted less than one year ago, the appeals process hasn't even started yet, that I'm aware of.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#14)
    by learned hound on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    This verdict came in on 1/24/04, almost 2 years ago. So I have no idea why it's a big story now and apparently was under the radar for almost 2 years. According to the Hattiesburg American, Maye was convicted of capital murder on Friday morning and by Friday afternoon he'd been sentenced to death. In other words, the penalty phase took less than 1/2 a day to try and to deliberate to verdict. So if the question is ineffective assistance, there's probably a lot to work with here. And then there's the other problem: almost nobody of modest means (I assume this is Maye because he was renting a duplex described in news coverage as "shabby") should ever try to retain private counsel to handle a death appeal. It's a specialty, and in most cases should be left to those who really, really know what they're doing. And those folks are very, very expensive if retained. Current appellate counsel according to the story appears not to be able even to get the appeal perfected. So Maye may well be headed where so many unfortunate others have gone: a double header of ineffective assistance claims, both trial and direct appeal. That makes the situation all the worse.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    I'm a public defender, Death defense qualified, have no client on the row, and I belong to the NRA. Let's not get too one dimensional. I'm in for 100 if someone starts a fund. This case is offensive from alot of political positions.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#16)
    by LorettaNall on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    I'm in for $25 if someone gets a fund going. I'll try to raise more among my supporters.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#17)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:51 PM EST
    Radley Balko has update dated today Dec 10/05 on this.

    Re: Waiting for Death in Mississippi (none / 0) (#18)
    by roy on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:58 PM EST
    And another update, this time showing that the facts are not as straightforward as some (including me) have said. (yeah, I know it's a dead thread, I just want to correct myself)