I've been meaning for some time to write a post about the Cory Maye case. I've engaged in more than one online discussion of the case in varying contexts (racism, the drug war, forced entry by law enforcement) and have always promised a treatment in this blog. However, the tireless and diligent blogging of Radley Balko on the case - and his role in uncovering and publicizing critical details - has kind of dwarfed any sense that I could contribute something more valuable. So instead I'm going to link you to the writing of Balko and other sources so you can familiarize yourself with the case.
The paragraph summary: an informant's tip resulted in a late night forced entry by rural Mississippi police into the home of one Cory Maye, who had no prior criminal record and was not even named in the warrant (though his duplex unit neighbored a known dealers'). Sleeping in a room with his baby daughter, Maye claims he never heard the police announce themselves and feared a break-in by criminals. When police entered the room he fired a shot that killed the son of the police chief. He was tried and convicted as a result of incompetent counsel and sentenced to death. All for defending his home as any of us would have done.
There's a LOT more to the case, and I urge you to familiarize yourself with it. Here's some materials:
- Balko's Reason article summarizing the case up to a few weeks ago
- Since that article was published, the informant has been identified: a locally infamous racist who is probably one of the least credible people I've ever heard described.
- Here's a local story on the recent hearing that threw out Maye's sentencing for incompetent counsel.
- Balko just met Cory Maye; here's his impressions.
I think it goes without saying that somebody with no criminal background and posing no immediate threat to anybody has a right to answer the door, view the warrant, and surrender his home in an orderly and respectful fashion. Anything else is subjecting citizens to a police state (a common criticism of the drug war in general). And while Maye has dodged one bullet, he's not out of danger, as Balko explains:
...Cory's life is far from saved. Thursday's ruling was certainly a victory, but we're still a long way from real justice in this case. There's still the possibility he could be again get death at the new sentencing trial. I think odds are against that happening, for reasons I'll get into later, but it's still a very real possibility. I'm also a little concerned that should Cory's sentence be reduced to the death penalty to life in prison, his cause will lose some momentum. Life without parole doesn't carry nearly the same sex appeal as a looming date with the death chamber. I hope that doesn't happen -- I hope the people who've done great work promoting this will case continue to write about it and call attention to it. An innocent life spent in prison isn't a life saved. Cory's two kids will still grow up without a dad. And a good guy will still wrongly waste away his life in a jail cell.Read this article