Radley Balko is touring Prentiss, Mississippi doing some research on the Cory Maye case. He’s writing up some interesting observations, too.
Here’s his interview with one of the jurors who convicted Maye of capital murder:
First, the woman lived in a trailer that, even in the context of the shabby surroundings, was in bad shape. She looked to be in her late thirties, early forties, and was missing her front teeth — both top and bottom. She also wasn’t all that interested in talking to me.
“I don’t want to talk about that. I’m trying my best to put that out of my mind.”
“Just a few minutes?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. I want to forget about it.”
“Do you think he did it? Do you think he knew it was a cop he shot that night?”
“I couldn’t say. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. I couldn’t say.”
“You don’t know if he was guilty or not?”
“Some of what he said didn’t make no sense. Some of it made sense. But I couldn’t say.”
“If you weren’t sure, why did you convict him?”
“I couldn’t say.”
“Did you feel any pressure? Were you intimidated?”
“Are you sure? There’s some talk that some of the jurors felt intimidated.”
“No. It wasn’t like that.”
“So you can’t tell me if you think he actually did it or not?”
“I couldn’t say.”
“Do you think he deserves a new trial?”
“Oh, yes. He ought to get a new trial. Everybody deserves a chance.”
“Is there anything else you want to tell me about Cory Maye and the trial?”
“I don’t remember a lot of it. I was on lots of medication. For my nerves. With the medication, I didn’t hear everything. I didn’t remember everything that was going on. So I couldn’t say.”
“What kind of medication?”
“For my nerves.”
“What did you think of Cory’s lawyer?”
“I didn’t like her. I liked her at first, but then she did some things that made me not like her. A lot of people didn’t like her.”
“What kind of things did she do?”
“I couldn’t say, now. I don’t remember. It was a long time ago.”
“Did you convict Cory Mayebecause you didn’t like her?”
“Maybe a little. I couldn’t say. I’m really not sure if he did it or not.”
This poor woman clearly wasn’t clear on the meaning of “reasonable doubt.” She’s also a good example of something I’ll write about in more detail later — a certain sense of reservation among blacks in this area that racism, injustice, and the occasional railroading at the hands of the criminal justice system are all just part life as a black person in this particular part of Mississippi. It’s not only accepted, it’s expected.
If it hadn’t happened in the deep south, I’d call the following bizarre. Here’s an update on some of the witnesses:
One of the more bizarre aspects of the Cory Maye case is exactly what happened to the occupants on the other side of the duplex, Jamie Smith and his girlfriend, Audrey Davis.
Smith was the entire reason the raid took place that night. He’s the only one named in the warrants, had a reputation around Jefferson Davis County as a drug dealer, and indeed had a significant amount of marijuana in his home the night of the raid. So why was he never charged or prosecuted? Why does no one in Prentiss seem to know what happened to him?
I talked to one woman in Prentiss who knew both Smith and Cory Maye before the raid (it’s actually something of a coincidence, given that there’s little evidence that Maye and Smith knew one another all that well). This woman, who fears repercussions from the police department and asked that I not use her name, says that Smith, Davis, and a 15-year-old named “Jimmy” were actually told to leave town by Prentiss police, precisely because of what they saw the night of the raid. In media reports and interviews with me, Prentiss police and prosecutors say only that Smith “skipped bail,” was “never charged,” or that they simply don’t know what happened to him.
The woman I spoke with wasn’t sure if Smith, Davis, or the boy heard (or, more importantly, didn’t hear) police announce themselves before entering), but she says they did see raiding officers giving a Maye a severe beating after Officer Jones went down. That would explain why Maye was rushed off to a jail in Hattiesburg, some 45 miles away from Prentiss. It would also explain why Maye’s mother, Dorothy Funchess, was denied access to her son for two weeks after the raid. In fact, she was only given access after contacting the mayor of Hattiesburg (who happens to be black). At trial, officers roundly denied beating Maye after the raid, despite some photographic evidence to the contrary. […]
Smith and Davis could shed some light on all of this. But not only do Prentiss officials not know where the couple is, they don’t seem all that interested in finding them. Wonder why that is?
Anyone still wonder why movies like “In the Heat of the Night” were set in Mississippi?
The photograph is the back door of Maye’s residence, which was kicked in by the police. It was (presumably) taken by Radley Balko, and other related photographs may be found on his website.