Cory Maye Awarded New Sentencing Hearing
Last year, Radley Balko brought the nation's attention to the plight of Cory Maye. The police broke down Maye's door during a drug raid in Mississippi. The officers claimed they knocked, but having gone to the trouble of securing a "no knock" warrant, that claim is suspect. Maye, not realizing that the people invading his house in the middle of the night were police officers and concerned about the safety of his young daughter, shot an intruder without realizing he was shooting a police officer. The officer turned out to be the son of the police chief. The police turned out to have busted down the wrong door; their warrant was for the adjoining unit in the duplex where Maye lived. Maye is black; the officer and jury were white; and Maye, who seems to have been acting in self-defense, was nonetheless sentenced to death.
TalkLeft first wrote about Maye here, and followed up here. Thanks to Balko, Maye's case stayed in the spotlight, attracting the attention of Danny Glover (as TalkLeft reported here) among others. Balko's efforts on Maye's behalf also attracted the attention of a lawyer at Covington & Burling, who persuaded the firm to represent Maye pro bono. Balko reports on the results of their work:
Recently, a private investigator discovered the identity of the confidential informant whose tip led to the raid: a poor, uneducated local resident named Randy Gentry. When Gentry found out the investigator was working for Maye's defense, he left a profane 45-second rant on the answering machine of one of the defense lawyers, complete with racial epithets and threats. Gentry, described in police affidavits and search warrants as reliable and trustworthy, has apparently been used as an informant on several occasions.
Last week in Poplarville, Miss., Maye was finally given a hearing on his post-trial motions. His new legal team mounted a vigorous defense, calling new expert witnesses, showing computer animations, and presenting significant new evidence - the fruits of several months of investigation.
Here's the happy news: Maye is, for the moment, off death row. The judge found that Maye's representation at sentencing was constitutionally ineffective, entitling him to a new sentencing hearing. The judge hasn't yet decided whether Maye should also be granted a new trial.
There's a bigger picture here, and Balko nails it:
Maye's plight is a case study in the problems with drug policing in America, from questionable confidential informants to invasive paramilitary tactics, overworked and underfunded defense attorneys, and how all of the above seem to disproportionately affect low-income people, particularly African-Americans.
Politics played a huge role in this case. Want to be disgusted? Read this:
In December of last year, Prentiss Mayor Charles Dumas called Bob Evans, Maye's chief counsel and Prentiss public defender, to tell him that the town's aldermen were unhappy with his decision to represent Maye in his appeal. Dumas told Evans he might well lose his job should he continue representing Maye - an odd threat, given that as public defender, this was Evans' job. In January, Evans was fired.
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