December 08, 2005

The Night That The Lights 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.

Updated 12-09-05 15:08 More links added at the bottom of the post.

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 claims that he did not know it was the cops. 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.

Instapundit has more.

Radley Balko has more, including confirmation that Mr. Maye was not named in the search warrant.

It Comes In Pints isn't happy about this either.

Say Uncle observes that this is another potential "no-knock" warrant death, albeit lower than usual.

Irons In The Fire chimes in.

Jim Caserta uses understatement to question Mr. Mayes treatment.

Confederate Yankee thinks Mr. Maye should be free.

Matt Rustler posts his thoughts on the matter & includes contact info for Mississippi's Governor; "Gov. Barbour can be reached at 1-877-405-0733, or by mail at: P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205. (Though I'd ask for a full unconditional pardon rather than just clemency. Mr. Maye should not suffer any punishment for defending his home & his family.)

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

Thanks for this. This sounds like an outrage. I will be raising my voice in defense of this citizen.

Its interesting that this happened in Mississippi, where talented Governor Haley Barbour is rumoured to have Presidential ambitions. Were I Barbour, I would investigate this case. If the shooter is innocent, I would jump in on his side, and score (national?) political points with the NRA.

Also, imagine if Haley Barbour publicly brings President Bush into this, and maybe even obtains a Presidential Pardon?! Once again, it would be Repubs helping the black man more than Dems ever did.

Further irony - vocal Hollywood Dems - they of "Anti Death Penalty + Police are Racists" persuasion, would sit this out strictly because of the gun angle.

Could Hollywood/Dem hypocrisy be any more naked? Could Republican/Conservative morality and ethics be displayed more alluringly?

This case, if true, could be dynamite.

Of course, it'll probably never happen. Barbour and Bush's "advisors" will convince them to sit it out while NRA lawyers do the real work.

Posted by: gcotharn at December 8, 2005 09:24 PM

Good point, and I will be calling the Governor's office, although a better strategy for Maye might be to start some heavy Bush-bashing, Barb and Constanza would immediatley start paying attention.

...although, you might want to use the Vickie Lawrence references a little more sparingly.

Posted by: T. Marcell at December 8, 2005 10:04 PM

I would love to see a gun rights group stand up for this man. Unfortunately, it's not likely. Ever since the "jack booted thugs" incident, gun groups are afraid to challenge cops.

BTW - Radley has an update:
He requested a copy of the search warrant in the case. And before sending it to him, the clerk confirmed that Cory's name was never on it.

Posted by: Bitter at December 9, 2005 06:23 AM

Fascinating story. In reading the news accounts, we all have noted some missing details and inaccuracies. Let's not assume these are all one-sided. Prentiss MS is not a big town--maybe 1200 people. There's a decent chance the accused knew the cop--he was the Chief's son, after all.

Obviously that doesn't mean he recognized him in the middle of the night, but it could explain why the jurors didn't immediately credit Maye with the assumption that he fired not knowing he was targeting a cop.

Even crackers are not so willing to turn their minds off that they will ignore the presumtion of innocence. Given that and the venue change, I suspect there are details we don't know that mitigate this apparent miscarriage of justice.

Posted by: spongeworthy at December 9, 2005 07:02 AM

Hmm. The trackback didn't seem to take.

Posted by: Ken Summers at December 9, 2005 08:39 AM

Great work - this story needs more attention!

Posted by: Jim Caserta at December 9, 2005 11:22 AM

This seems like an incredible injustice. I hope that those clamouring for tookie will focus on someone who should not even be in jail. Can anyone approach the governor. I am a brit so i can't. This is really stupid. tookie should by any standards at least stay in jail for the rest of his life, but Cory is innocent.

Posted by: dave at December 12, 2005 07:01 AM

I'm an attorney who was both born in the South, and who practices here. I believe that you are mistaken about the notion of a strong respect for authority here. I too have read Webb's book, as well as Cash's Mind of the South, and I believe that there is a different basis for the type of decisions reached by juries here, especially in the much more rural areas.
1. The notion of "he needed killin'" is not only a valid defense here, but the converse is also a basis for the death penalty. It is here that race and class play an important part because a black or poor person who lives in a crime ridden area is looked upon as being a criminal himself, regardless of whether there is any prior record of the offenses that each member of the jury will be certain that the person has committed.
2. A related problem is that most juries are drawn from voting records, and as such, they do not include people who are marginalized, who feel no civic responsibility to register to vote, or who have had their voting rights taken away for some reason (i.e. conviction for a felony).
3. A traditional militarisim here in the South. This has been commented on by numerous authors, and mainfests itself here in a new way. As in the past thirty years police officers have come to be seen, not as peace officers, but warriors on a battle front with evil criminals, the love and respect for soldiers here has also begun to apply to police.
4. The long time corruption of small area southern politics means that you are less likely to piss off authority figures because it will be a pain for you in the future. This is not respect so much as it is fear of the community. The folks who can cause you problems used to be impossible to get rid of due to stranglehold one party rule.
5. The rural nature of much of the South until very recently made it much more fearful of wrongdoers, and the least hint that you might have a murderer among you meant that it was necessary to remove that threat so that you could go about your day without fear.
6. The place is just a violent area. Not just in terms of the populace, but also in terms of the government, even as represented by a judge or jury. Lynchings were part of that violent public response, and it is helpful to remember that not all lynchings were directed against blacks, and were done as a continuation of frontier type justice due to the perpetuation of the frontier in the South because of the plantation system.

I do not suggest that these are the particular reasons in this case. I just thought I'd add a little food for thought.

Posted by: mike at December 13, 2005 10:10 AM

Why is this a shock? There are now and have always been two sets of laws. One for whites and one for blacks. It is sad that hatred still runs so deep. Hopefully this will get national attention.

Posted by: Byrd at March 23, 2006 07:51 AM