Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Breaking News

Have you been following the story of Cory Maye? If the facts are as reported, this is insane. I wasn't going to blog about anything serious this morning, but the story popped up on my aggregator and I think it's too important to bypass. The Agitator broke the story on the blogosphere:
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.

The story gets more bizarre from there.

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. The facts of the case barely entered the picture. Gotta' love the South.

It gets weirder. Maye's family terminated his trial attorney after he was convicted. In her place, they hired a guy from California with no legal experience who convinced them that he'd had bad representation (given his lawyer's closing argument, he was probably on to something). The new fellow has since failed on several occasions to file the proper appeals
and has gone on to do some investigative work:
Today, I talked to the circuit court clerk for Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi.

Mississippi has surprisingly transparency-friendly open records laws, so I was able to ask for a copy of the search warrant that led to the raid on Maye's home. . . . I was a little anxious about what the warrant said, so on a whim, I asked if she could take a quick look at it for me. The conversation went something like this:

Her: You want me to read the whole thing? It's very long.

Me: No, that's okay. I just have a hunch about what's in it that I was hoping you could check out for me.

Her: What would you like me to look for?

Me: Are you familiar with the Cory Maye case?

Her: Oh, yes. I know what happened.

Me: My guess is that you'll find the name of Jaimie Wilson on that warrant, but you won't find the name of Cory Maye. Could you check to satisfy my curiosity before you send me a copy?

Her: Okay. Let's see.... Jaimie....

Me: Wilson...

Her: Yes, now I see his name is on the warrant. Jaimie Wilson.

Me: Now look for Cory Maye.

Her: Silence.

Me: Corey Maye?

Her: Silence.

Me: Is he in there anywhere?

Her: Oh my.

I haven't yet seen the warrant myself. But the clerk confirmed to me over the pohne that Cory Maye's name wasn't anywhere on it. Now have a look at this AP story from January 2004. The article was written after Maye was sentenced to death, more than two years after the shooting. Relevant excerpt:

A Jefferson Davis County man will pay with his life for the 2001 shooting death of a Prentiss police officer.

Cory Maye, 23, showed no reaction when a Marion County jury of eight women and four men found him guilty of capital murder Friday in the death of Officer Ron Jones.

Jones was one of eight officers conducting a search warrant looking for illegal drugs at two apartments on Mary Street in Prentiss on Dec. 26, 2001. Shortly after Jones entered Maye's bedroom, he was shot in the chest, the bullet missing his protective vest.

Emphasis mine. It's certainly possible that the reporter who filed this story screwed up, and simply assumed the warrant covered both sides of the duplex. Or it's possible that Pentiss police misled the media into thinking exactly that. None of the stories written on the Maye case that I've seen so far have pointed out that Maye was not the original subject of the raid.

So let's re-sum what we know so far: Police broke down Maye's door at sometime after 11:30pm at night. He was alone with his daughter. He was not a drug suspect, nor were police authorized by the warrant to enter his home. Maye had no prior criminal record. And police said at the time that no drugs were found in his apartment, though they later say they found "traces" of marijuana and cocaine.

Here's the text of Mississippi's "capital murder" law, for which Maye was convicted and sentenced to death:

"(2) The killing of a human being without the authority of law by any means or in any manner shall be capital murder in the following cases:

(a) Murder which is perpetrated by killing a peace officer or fireman while such officer or fireman is acting in his official capacity or by reason of an act performed in his official capacity, and with knowledge that the victim was a peace officer or fireman..."

Emphasis mine. . . .

I consider the rest of the posts a must-read, and monitor The Agitator for further developments. The blogosphere needs to get MSM attention sufficiently aroused to require an examination into the case to determine whether this is the miscarriage of justice it facially appears to be. BattlePanda is coordinating the efforts:
When the Instapundit and I both agree that something is wack. You can be sure that it is indeed very, very wack.

UPDATE: As both Glenn Reynolds and Mark Kleiman pointed out, this is such an unambiguous outrage that both the left and the right side of the blogisphere should stand united and work to make this man's story known. On second thought, to the heck with working together. Let's make this a competition. I am going to keep track of right and left wing blogs mentioning the Cory Maye to see which side is doing a better job. Mainly, I'll be using Technorati, but please send me links if you see that I've missed anyone.

There's a ton of links and counting - including the big guns, so we should start to see some buzz on this in the papers. (BTW, does this mean I have to pick a party? Dammit, I enjoy floating around issue-by-issue. But if I have to be in a column, I'll take the transparently-colored Libertarians rather than either a red or a blue label, thanks.)

This info from Stop the Bleating:
The Governor of Mississippi is Haley Barbour. According to the Death Penalty Information Center, he may exercise his clemency power unilaterally; no approval from a board or advisory group is required. It might be time to dust off that power. Gov. Barbour can be reached at 1-877-405-0733, or by mail at: P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205.

The blogosphere reaction is pretty much unanimous.

Bitch Girls says:
Normally I'm a fan of the death penalty, but this case is so clearly wrong that it makes me sick to my stomach. Each of those jurors who made a decision to convict and kill someone based not on evidence, but on the fact that they didn't like someone's closing argument should live in shame the rest of their lives. In fact, those who are willing to acknowledge that the facts of the case weren't truly the basis for their vote for conviction, I happen to think they have a special place in hell waiting for them.

Atrios responds:
Every now and then the wingnutosphere finds a cause which actually has merit. Too often when they do they spend more time gazing at themselves in self-righteous admiration then actually supporting the cause, but nonetheless when they're right they're right. The case of Cory Maye is indeed a travesty.

Kevin Drum sums it up this way:
I'm basically with Max on the whole Tookie Williams/death penalty thing: I'm not opposed to the death penalty qua death penalty, but I long ago became convinced that it was impossible to administer fairly or reliably and thus should be abandoned. At the same time, if anyone does deserve the death penalty, Tookie Williams is surely it. Regardless of what he's done since, the man was a gangster and a thug and hardly deserving of our sympathy.

Cory Maye, however, is a whole nother story. Radley Balko has the grim details here, and even though something about it continues to niggle at me, it hardly matters. Regardless of whether or not there's more here than meets the eye, there's not much doubt that Maye doesn't deserve to die. It's yet another example of how capriciously the death penalty is applied in the United States, and Maye's case is an almost perfect demonstration of the intersection of race, lousy representation, and likely police misconduct that are so often the hallmarks of capital cases.

I found a MSM story on the case and I was less than impressed by the prosecutor's statement in support of the conviction:
"He was defending himself and my child," said Maye’s girlfriend, Chenteal Longino.

But those claims were not enough to convince District Attorney Buddy McDaniel or the jury.

"Those of us who work around law enforcement officers and their families see the danger that they face every day and the loss those families and the communities feel when they're taken out and when they're murdered and their lives are brought to a close in the performance of duty," said McDaniel.

Maye was found guilty Friday morning at the Marion County courthouse. The jury began deliberating at one o'clock and shortly after six Friday evening the sentence was decided. Maye will get the death penalty.

"Every time they get in the car they don't know whether they're going to come back alive or not, don't know whether they'll be alive at the end of their shift or not. You can't pay them enough, you can't say enough about them. Having been with, having worked closely with them for thirty years, its not something that I can deal with lightly," McDaniel said.

Irrelevant, counselor. The police do put their lives on the line, in general they get absolutely nowhere near the respect they deserve for the incredibly dangerous and difficult job they do every day. I do not question that the shooting of the officer was a horrible tragedy, and should never have happened. But it has little to do with whether Maye was guilty of capital murder. The issue at hand is simple: given the facts and circumstances of the raid, was he acting in self-defense or with premeditated murder in mind - did he know it was an officer when he fired the shot? That is the only relevant issue here, and the court of public opinion at least seems to stand behind the idea that the circumstances are such that reasonable doubt must lie.

In this case, with a gun at hand when an unknown person broke into my bedroom in the middle of the night, I'd pretty much be shooting first and asking questions later. If not, I run the risk of being shot myself or disarmed by the intruder and having my own gun used against me - one of the most common mistakes made by civilians, as I understand it. I also question how workable the concept of "knowing it is a police officer" is in reality. How many stories have women heard of murderers and rapists impersonating an officer? So even if the word "police" is uttered as the door is broken in, in the dark would I be able to tell? These are the questions the State needs to answer, and answer definitively. But when asked about the situation, the best the prosecutor could do is reiterate how dangerous policework is. That's non-responsive. Am we to assume you have nothing better to produce?

BTW: No-announce raids are flipping dangerous for everybody involved. I understand the reason behind them, but I sometimes wonder if it's worth the risk to the officers, as presumably bona fide drug dealers may be even more inclined to pull a trigger, particularly if hopped up on drugs. It's awful that this officer got killed for a simple mistake. I wish we could figure out something better. But of course, if you knock first and you're right about the subject being a drug dealer, the next sound you hear is the toilet flushing. I don't see a viable solution.

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