December 08, 2005

The Night That The Light Went Out In Mississippi

Via Bitter who got it from Radley Balko of The Agitator.

Cory Maye sits on death row. His crime? He shot the son of the police chief. Why? Cause said son of a police chief was a member of a raiding party that busted in his house in the middle of the night unannounced serving a "no knock" warrant at the wrong damn address. Mr. Maye dutifully shot the armed intruder as I'd hope any one of you would do. But the problem is that despite it being justifiable you have a black man in Mississippi who shot the white son of a white police chief. He was charged & then convicted by an all white jury, based on the dislike of the defense attorney's closing statement & their belief that he was too uppity.

If the reports that Mr. Balko based his post on are accurate this is a gross disregard for justice & the law.

This story from WLBT written by Maggie Wade has a different take on things. I did find the name of the person who decided to prosecute a man for defending his home against intruders - District Attorney Buddy McDaniel. The story also states that the police chief's son was shot executing a search warrant for drugs. It fails to mention the warrant was for a different house.

"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."
"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."

Nope - no bias there.

"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."

They also reportedly said that "supper's waiting at home and I gotta get to it".

"Cory Maye's family and his attorney also accused officers of beating him while he was in custody after his arrest. Officers and prosecutors said those claims were completely false."

& considering the completely unbiased source we must side with the cops right? Look, it's not implausible for a cop to beat someone who just killed another cop, especially one he knew. I'd be curious as to how serious the allegations of police brutality were taken.

This article was written a day or so after the events. Two interesting things I found in it are statements that the cops announced themselves & that the cops said no drugs were found. It does seem to confuse the address of the warrant as it only states that a search warrant was being served at a duplex, implying the warrant was good for both sides of the duplex, when a duplex is of necessity treated as two different addresses.

According to this story from January of 2004 the warrant was being served on two apartments. It also says that Mr. Maye testified that he didn't know it was the cops busting into his house. It also says the Mississippi will automatically review the case because it involves the death penalty.

I don't believe any question of law is seriously at issue.

I refer you to the case of John Bad Elk v. u.S.

"...Instead of saying that plaintiff in error had the right to use such force as was absolutely necessary to resist an attempted illegal arrest, the jury were informed that the policemen had the right to use all necessary force to arrest him, and that he had no right to resist. He, of course, had no right to unnecessarily injure, much less to kill, his assailant; but where the officer is killed in the course of the disorder which naturally accompanies an attempted arrest that is resisted, the law looks with very different eyes upon the transaction, when the officer had the right to make the arrest, from what it does if the officer had no such right. What might be murder in the first [177 U.S. 529, 538] case might be nothing more than manslaughter in the other, or the facts might show that no offense had been committed."

I also bring up Mississippi's Constitution:

"Sec. 12. The right of every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of his home, person, or property, or in aid of the civil power when thereto legally summoned, shall not be called in question, but the legislature may regulate or forbid car rying concealed weapons."

"Sec. 23. The people shall be secure in their persons, houses, and possessions from unreasonable seizure or search; and no warrant shall be issued without probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, specially designating the place to b e searched and the person or thing to be seized."

"Sec. 32. The enumeration of rights in this constitution shall not be construed to deny and impair others retained by, and inherent in, the people."

Mississippi's statute law on justifiable homicide:

"(1) The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another shall be justifiable in the following cases:

(e) When committed by any person in resisting any attempt unlawfully to kill such person or to commit any felony upon him, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person shall be;

(f) When committed in the lawful defense of one's own person or any other human being, where there shall be reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great personal injury, and there shall be imminent danger of such design being accomplished;"

The Mississippi statute law concerning excusable homicide:

"The killing of any human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another shall be excusable:

(a) When committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent;

(b) When committed by accident and misfortune, in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation;"

& what Mr. Maye was charged under (capitol murder):

"(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..."

What is in question is what exactly happened. Or at least it's partly in question. Mr. Maye seems pretty adamant that he did not know it was a cop that broke into his house. In at least one news story it says the cops claimed to have announced themselves. But it does not say if they announced themselves when entering the other duplex, or every time they entered the building.

It would seem that there is at minimum a reasonable doubt that Mr. Maye did not hear them announce themselves or otherwise realize it was the cops & not some common non-state criminal who had broken into his house. If that is the case then I don't see how Mr. Maye could have committed any crime, let alone a capitol one. It seems that his actions are consistent with Mississippi's definition of justifiable homicide, or at the very least excusable homicide.

If the statements by the jurors are accurate then they should be damned. Again, if accurate this is evidence of the subtle kind of prejudice which is by no means contained within the South, but that the South has a very bad reputation for (& this example to the contrary it's an undeserved one as of late).

Another thing which may have been at play, but much more difficult to see, is a peculiarity of the South - or at least the Southern states I've been in & the Southerners I've known. That's an affinity for authority. It's a cultural thing to be sure, & I think James Webb's theory about it being a part of a Scots-Irish reverence for strong leaders has some merit (though Webb implies this rather than directly expand upon it in his book Born Fighting: How The Scot=Irish Shaped America). But this preoccupation with respecting authority can be tied in with or can be confused for a class mindedness that is very similar to overt racism.

Whatever the underlying motivations if the jurors statements are accurate it's a very bad indictment upon themselves.

I cannot see how any competent lawyer in front of an impartial jury could not have established a reasonable doubt in this case. I'll admit I do not know all of the details & my searches for any transcript of the trial came up empty, but it would take something of enough importance to be reported in the news stories I've read to convince me that Mr. Maye could not have been ignorant of there being cops breaking into his house.

It does seem that Mississippi prosecutors have gone after seeming self defense case a murder cases before, but at least previously the jury acted like it had some smarts.

So in Mississippi an innocent man is on death row, while celebrities plead for the life of an admitted murderer.

& in case you were wondering - or even in case you weren't - I think "no knock" warrants are one of the most abysmal practices we have in this country. It creates way too much danger for the cops as well as the occupants with very little to gain. Honestly, can you tell me that a few ounces or even a few pounds of cocaine are worth the life of a cop? Or a homeowner? Or an innocent homeowner who is mistakenly raided? I know Sheriff Masters wouldn't think so. So it should not be any surprise that personally I don't think it should matter if the cops announce themselves or not. There have been a few instances of non-state criminals yelling "cop" as they break into a home for me to think it's perfectly safe to do whatever they say. Oh it's a very small chance that it would be someone who merely impersonated a cop, but then again it's a very small chance you'll be car-jacked, but you keep a pistol handy in your car don't ya?

So even if it was known that cops were breaking into a house I wouldn't feel much sympathy for them. If you break into someone's house who is not causing you or anyone else any immediate threat then you shouldn't act surprised or indignant if they use force to repel you. Since I would be wrong to do it as an individual under most circumstances, then it is wrong for someone to do it as an agent of the state under most circumstances. The exceptions would be where there existed a very strong belief that someone in the house was in imminent danger (say in the case of a hostage or a kidnapped person) or that someone in the house was posing an imminent threat to those outside (as in someone randomly hooting at pedestrians from his window). Other than that I cannot see any moral justification for barging into someone's home w/o them first reading the warrant.

But none of that is at issue here. The cop had a warrant for a different house. They broke into Mr. Maye's home at night & Mr. Maye's claim that he did not know it was the cop. The jury seems to have acted on prejudice of one kind or another & I would question the motive of the DA a well - primarily because he seems to be very biased toward the cops.

If anyone can dig up anything else on this please let me know. In the meantime on the details I've read so far I can come to no other conclusion that Mr. Maye is wrongfully imprisoned & wrongfully scheduled to die for daring to defend himself against the King's soldiers. After all, any attack on the King's soldiers is an attack upon the King, right?

But if anyone can put in a word or two to the governor about issuing an unconditional pardon now would be the time. & if someone would see if the NRA, GOA, AF or any other pro-gun/pro-self defense org is doing anything about this then please let me know what I can do to help their efforts.

Posted by Publicola at December 8, 2005 09:17 AM | TrackBack
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