Mississippi Burning an Innocent Man

Fox News columnist and blogger extraordinaire Radley Balko has been reporting about Cory Maye, who sits on death row in Mississippi for being a cop killer. Here is the basic story line:

Sometime in late 2001, Officer Ron Jones collected a tip from an anonymous informant that Jamie Smith, who lived opposite Maye in a duplex, was selling drugs out of his home. Jones passed the tip to the Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force, a regional police agency in charge of carrying out drug raids in four surrounding counties. The task force asked Jones if he’d like to come along on the raid they’d be conducting as the result of his tip. He obliged.

On the night of December 26, the task force donned paramilitary gear, and conducted a drug raid on Smith’s house. Unfortunately, they hadn’t done their homework. The team didn’t realize that the house was a duplex, and that Maye — who had no relationship with Smith,– rented out the other side with his girlfirend and 1-year-old daughter.

As the raid on Smith commenced, some officers – including Jones — went around to what they thought was a side door to Smith’s residence, looking for a larger stash of drugs. The door was actually a door to Maye’s home. Maye was home alone with his young daughter, and asleep, when one member of the SWAT team broke down the outside door…

..Maye, fearing for his life and the safety of his daughter, fired at Jones, hitting him in the abdomen, just below his bulletproof vest. Jones died a short time later.

Maye had no criminal record, and wasn’t the target of the search warrant. Police initially concluded they had found no drugs in Maye’s side of the duplex.

The end result, especially since the cop who died is the son of the police chief, is tragically predictible. To add fuel to the fire, Maye is black and Jones was white.

In January of last year, Maye was convicted of capital murder for the shooting of Officer Jones. He was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

The story gets even wierder, though. More after the jump.

According to Balko, who seems to be researching this story well, Maye had no criminal record. The police initially said there were no drugs, then said “they’d found ‘traces’ of marijuana and cocaine.” Maye’s attorney said the cops found one roach. That isn’t relevant, though.

Someone busted in his home late at night and he shot them in self defense. It is that simple. Except in places like Mississippi.

Balko provides that the jury may have been a bit tainted for either racial or religious reason and his posting is a must read. He followed it up with some additional compelling background, too.

Here is his account of his conversation with the circuit court clerk for Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi:

Her: You want me to read the whole thing? It’s very long.

Me: No, that’s okay. I just have a hunch about what’s in it that I was hoping you could check out for me.

Her: What would you like me to look for?

Me: Are you familiar with the Cory Maye case?

Her: Oh, yes. I know what happened.

Me: My guess is that you’ll find the name of Jaimie Wilson on that warrant, but you won’t find the name of Cory Maye. Could you check to satisfy my curiosity before you send me a copy?

Her: Okay. Let’s see…. Jaimie….

Me: Wilson…

Her: Yes, now I see his name is on the warrant. Jaimie Wilson.

Me: Now look for Cory Maye.

Her: Silence.

Me: Corey Maye?

Her: Silence.

Me: Is he in there anywhere?

Her: Oh my.

According to Balko, the following applies to Mississippi’s capitol murder law:

“(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…”

and here is the code for justifiable homicide:

(1) The killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or omission of another shall be justifiable in the following cases:

[…]

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…

As I write this, I hear the the chorus of a song going through my mind:

That’s the night the lights went out in georgia
That’s the night that they hung an innocent man
Don’t trust your soul to no back woods southern lawyer
Cause the judge in the town’s got bloodstains on his hand

The lights aren’t out yet, though. In coversation at my local watering hole last night, several people (Democrat, Republican, and Libertarian) all stated that they think Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour is truly a decent man, even if they disagreed with his politics a bit. I’d suggest that we all contact him and see if this is indeed the case.

Props. More on the story here, here, here, here and here.

5 Comments
  1. I’m just hearing about Corey Maye this week. I think it is terrible. I am for the death penalty, but only when the person is actually guilty. I was for Tookie’s death penalty because he was guilty. BUT, this is an entirely different matter. If I had been in Mr. Maye’s place, I would have shot the intruder also. Why are we not hearing more about this? I usually consider myself an informed person on current affairs. I will post on this and I will also contact Haley Barbour.

  2. Debbie,

    Thanks for contacting Haley — it is one of the things which could bring a much quicker resolution to this travesty of justice.

    I strongly believe that this issue is one which can unite the reds, blues, and other colors. Thanks for being a part of the rainbow team on this issue.