Cory Maye

CORY MAYE….Last night I wrote that something about the Cory Maye case “continues to niggle at me,” and this morning I’m still feeling a little bit niggled. To start, here’s Jonathan Adler’s summary of the case over at The Corner:

In the process of executing a warranted no-knock search on Maye’s neighbor in the middle of the night, cops burst into Maye’s home, unannounced. Maye woke up and, fearing for his life (that of his 18-month-old child), fired on one of the police, who later died from the wound. The cop’s death is a horrible tragedy, but the cause was the cops’ mistake ? breaking down the door of the wrong home ? not Cory Maye’s. If Maye reasonably believed his life was in danger, the shooting was self-defense.

I’m reproducing this only because versions like Adler’s are rapidly becoming conventional wisdom. But Radley Balko, who has been pursuing this case, has documented that this isn’t what really happened.

To begin with, it turns out that police didn’t mistakenly believe that Maye’s door was just a side door to his neighbor’s home (Maye and his neighbor shared a duplex). They knew perfectly well that Maye and his neighbor lived in separate residences and they had warrants for both houses.

This leads directly to an even bigger problem with the conventional wisdom: Adler states as fact that the police failed to announce themselves before breaking into Maye’s house, which means that Maye might justifiably have fired his gun because he was frightened that someone was breaking in to rob or assault him. But that’s precisely one of the facts in question. If police thought Maye’s door was just a side door to his neighbor’s house, it’s reasonable to suppose they might not have announced themselves. After all, why anounce yourself twice to the same residence? But it turns out they did know Maye lived in a separate house, which makes it considerably more likely that they really did announce themselves. After all, why wouldn’t they? Apparently they did it next door.

Now, as near as I can tell, this case is still a travesty. Maye had no criminal record; there’s no reason to think he would have fired his gun if he’d known that cops were breaking into his house; investigators initially reported that they found no drugs in Maye’s house but then mysteriously found some the next day; and Maye was apparently beaten pretty thoroughly by police after he was arrested. Oh, and the police officer was the son of the police chief; he was white; Maye is black; and the Mississippi jury was mostly white.

In other words, this still sounds like a serious miscarriage of justice, and there’s certainly no way that Maye should be a candidate for the death penalty. Still, we should keep our facts straight.