Radley Balko has been doing a helluva job in researching Cory Maye's situation. He's posted (in .pdf form) copies of the search warrants for both sides of the duplex, along with some related documents. A good summary of what we know to date can be found here, but I suggest just going to his main page & scrolling down.
We were mistaken; there was a search warrant for Mr. Maye's side of the duplex (although it did not name Mr. Maye). Also it turns out the gun Mr. Maye used was stolen. Two jurors were black (the rest were white) & Officer Jones was in fact armed, although he never drew his weapon. Do any of those things alter how I am looking at this situation?
Not really. The easiest one is the stolen gun issue. It had been stolen a year before in a town 100 miles away from where Mr. Maye lived. Mr. Maye says he got the gun from a friend & there's nothing to indicate that he knew the gun was stolen, let alone to imply that he stole it himself.
The fact that there was a search warrant doesn't alter anything. The police had a legal authority to be there, but not unannounced (if they did not announce themselves as Mr. Maye has suggested).
Legally it's a bit tricky in spots - while the warrant did not specify it to be of the "no knock" variety many courts have held that unannounced entry is permissible if it's necessary to prevent evidence form being destroyed or to protect the officer's safety. Of course I'm gonna call "bullshit" on both premises & explain why, but keep in mind part of the problem with this country is that the courts do not seek or heed my counsel.
The proper method of executing a search warrant is for the cops to knock, wait for someone to answer the door & then explain the situation. I'll even go another step & say that a cop should let the person read the warrant before they go into the dwelling or other named areas. The "law & order" types hate that notion because it could give a drug dealer a chance to flush the evidence but I think the attributes of such a method far outweigh the detriments.
By waiting until someone has read a warrant a cop is showing the proper respect for us mere peasants. Sure cops have a job to do but when they stop respecting those they deal with then it all falls to hell. Additionally & probably most pragmatically it gives the person whose property is to be searched a chance to make sure what the cops are intending to do is legal. Suppose someone points out that the warrant if for 8297 Main Street & the address the cops are about to search is 8299? Think that could prevent a host of unpleasantries? & perhaps would you go so far to say that it'd be worth the small risk that some drug dealer could be flushing cocaine or marijuana down his drain to prevent someone being shot because a group of cops can't read a street address?
The idea some courts have put forth that an unannounced entry would better protect the cops is laughable. Why? Folks like me. I don't care what you're wearing, if you barge into my house while armed, you will be shot. You'll be very lucky if you're not bayoneted as well (I've always been a belt & suspenders kinda guy) but count on being perforated by something. If I live I'll be happy to sort out the paperwork later, but any armed stranger who breaks into my house will be viewed as a threat & dealt with accordingly. Course if a cop knocks, waits for me to answer, then gives me a few to read the search warrant & make sure it's in order I'd comply. Not happily (who likes having their privacy invaded?) but peacefully.
& I do believe there are enough folks like me who tend to think that someone breaking into their home is a threat to be dealt with quickly to make the notion of "unannounced entries" being safer for cops a very foolish idea.
Another thing that strikes me as odd - well not odd, fishy, is the DA in the case claimed that not only was Mr. Maye's gun stolen, but unregistered. Well my guns aren't registered either (assuming the ATFU isn't keeping illegal records). Like Colorado & North Carolina Mississippi does not require firearms registration. Mentioning Mr. Maye's "unregistered" gun is about as relevant as mentioning his "unregistered" refrigerator. Saying either would accurately tell volumes about the DA's knowledge or his character, depending upon whether he knew he was speaking out of his ass or not. Then again it's not like the DA hasn't said dumb assed things before.
The only relevant question is whether Mr. Maye did or did not know it was a cop that was breaking into his home. Considering Mr. Maye only shot the one cop & threw down his weapon when the other cops yelled that they were cops I'd be inclined to believe that he did not. There's at least a reasonable doubt. The man was asleep when the cops broke in. Hell, it's possible that he simply did not understand what ever they were yelling prior to breaking his door down - that is if they announced themselves at that point. It seems odd that the cops would announce themselves & then feel the need to announce themselves again after shots were fired (though that could have just been a reflexive reaction as per their training). But Officer Jones was the first in the door & he did not have his weapon drawn. That would seem to be a sign that he did not think there was any danger. & if we excuse any thoughts of arrogance (as in "no one would dare oppose me cause I'm a cop" type arrogance) I'd think that the cops didn't believe anyone was home, thereby reducing incentive to announce their presence.
The jury thing is not less troubling because there were two black people on it. Juries only have to agree in their decision, not their reasoning. If 8 of them voted for conviction & death because they didn't like an "uppity negro" acting "uppity" they'd say "guilty" just like 4 others who honestly thought that a crime was committed. & there is no law that says 8 out those people who didn't like an "uppity negro" & voted for conviction because of it had to be white.
It's not so much a race issue as it is a culture & class issue. No; not the "class" that the left keeps mumbling about which is usually defined by income. I refer more to societal station - a hold over from the days of aristocracy. People can be just as class conscious within their own race as they can without. & a strong sense of class or station in life is not uncommon to some cultures within the u.S., especially more rurally centered ones.
So the jurors’ race doesn't negate the idea that they could have convicted because of some prejudice or prejudice-like motives. What i would like to see is a copy of the jury’s instructions from the judge. In the case I linked to in the previous post I did on Mr. Maye's case the appeal centered on the instructions to the jury. If the jury was told that self defense was not a valid verdict, or if the judge seriously misrepresented what it would take to constitute self defense or murder then that also could explain the jury's verdict.
I'm still left with the same conclusion – Mr. Maye should be a free man, not a condemned one. He acted no differently than I would have in his situation (well aside from his not bayoneting the intruder) & I do believe that was the proper course of action given the circumstances.
Battelpanda is keeping track of bloggers who are discussing Mr. Maye's predicament - & by political leanings no less. & keep checking in on Radley Balko's blog as I'm sure he'll have more on this as soon as he can find it.Posted by Publicola at December 14, 2005 06:07 AM | TrackBack