Visiting Prentiss, Mississippi: More on Cory Maye

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?”

“No.”

“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.

56 Comments
  1. Everywhere I look… it seems like every state is going crazy.

    I’m happy I live in NH… the only states left that seem sane are Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska… those are the only ones with a leaning towards liberty and equality.

  2. I live in Mississippi and am mixed race. I do work in a rather sheltered environment, and the Civil War is still big news here. But not all of Miss. is still locked in the Jim Crow days. Hatred, sometimes, racism, ocassionally, mistrust, still exists.

    I know the Sherrif of my county and he seems to be a fairly straight shooter. Have I heard of the stories, from time to time yes. But most of the state seems to have gotten passed the bad, from what I have seen. there are still hold outs, as there are everywhere, but life and time, marches forward.

    Thanks for looking into this case. Keep up the good work.

    Frank

  3. Frank,

    In Alabama, there is a lot of variance from county to county. It’s amazing how differently people of various races may be treated when crossing some imaginary line.

  4. In Colorado, medical marijuana has been approved by voters. In 2005, marijuana was legalized (one ounce or less for those 21 and over) for the City and County of Denver by voters. The backers of that effort are attempting a statewide vote on legalizing marijuana this year.

    Keep hope. Although marijuana is but one issue, it is symbolic of liberty efforts overall, and at the local level, states and cities, there can be progress, even if it seems slow (incrementalism can work).

  5. I knew Ron, I know his family. This isn’t about setting an innocent man free, its about a murderer who killed an honest, kind,respected police officer. Get off your pro-drug soap box and look at all the facts.

  6. We’ve been looking at the facts, and they all indicate your kind, respected Ron wasn’t so respectable after all.

  7. Ron was nothing but kind and respectable. Even Radley Balko had to admit that the people of Prentiss had nothing but nice things to say about him. You want the protection police give but you don’t want them to actually stop any crime?

  8. Sandra,

    Kind and respectable doesn’t translate to “good, thorough investigator”. There is plenty of evidence that no matter how good or kind or respectable Ron was, his investigation was flimsy, shoddy, and filled with holes, as was his entrance to Cory Maye’s home.

    Evidence is mounting that at best, Ron was grossly negligent in his investigation, obtaining a warrant, and executing that warrant. And we’ll never know what evidence he actually had on Maye because he didn’t keep a single record. A competent officer would have kept a record of the investigation and evidence leading up to obtaining a warrant from a judge.

    Additionally, there’s a good reason to suspect that Ron’s colleagues planted the piddly amount of marijuana found at Maye’s residence. So I’d think it prudent to question whether Ron was, in fact, stopping any crime by barging into Maye’s home.

  9. I know every officer out there and I would bet my life they didn’t plant anything.They are good people, honest police officers. If this had been your friend, your brother, your son, you wouldn’t want him getting off with a slap on the wrist. There are better causes then saving someone who was an unemployed pot smoker.

  10. Sandra,

    Where are these facts? I’d like to see some of them. Additionally, we’d be happy to publish most of what you might be able to send our way.

  11. Sandra,

    Are you suggesting that being unemployed or smoking marijuana is grounds for execution?

  12. No I am suggesting that killing a police officer is grounds for the death penalty. As far as “facts” about the police dept’s character, meet them for yourself. And “facts” about Ron’s character, talk to people who knew him, not just random people on the internet. If he didn’t “know” Ron was the police, in the time he had to get his gun and load it, he could have looked out the window. Having no common sense is not grounds for an aquital.

  13. Don’t forget the crime that Cory Maye committed – the real reason he’s on death row – he was a Negro in Mississippi who got uppity and thought he had the same rights to defend his home from a home invasion as White people do.

  14. You are making a race issue where there isn’t one. If Maye had been white and Ron had been black would you feel an injustice still had been done? It’s best to keep racism out of this.

  15. Sandra — There is a difference between killing and murdering. I’d like to determine if Maye had reason to believe that he was acting in self defense, which would have made his actions justifiable. I know it sucks to lose a good cop, but execution, in this case, may not be the just thing to do.

    Additionally, Balko just painted a pretty good picture of Ron. I tend to trust his judgement — and he is there on the scene.

    If I had a lot of armed people around my house, the last thing I’d do is look out the window — as it would provide them a target. Having what you call common sense could have killed Maye.

  16. This is not New York city. people do not break into your home armed and ready to murder you. Most break ins are crack addicts looking for a little money to buy more crack. This is not Detroit. He could have looked. They announced themselves as the police. people dont announce themselves as the police in Prentiss unless they ARE the police. I don’t think Maye’s story holds much water. But I am not a lawyer, or a judge.

  17. Additionally I would like to add that when some strange men banged on MY door when I was home alone with MY kids, I didn’t shoot them, I called the sherif’s department. If they had continued I would have called my neighbors (as they can get there sooner than the police, we live out of city limits). I didn’t kill anyone. I didn’t shoot anyone. They eventually left when I set off the panic button on my alarm. You don’t have to kill someone.

  18. I am not cold-hearted, I don’t agree with what Maye did. I think there should be consequences to crimes. I think everyone has the right to appeal their case. I am not personally even for the dealth penalty, it costs tax payers more than a lifetime prison sentence and there have been cases where DNA and new evidence has cleared people on death row.I also think that people should have to think about their crimes, sentencing them to death won’t achieve that. I can’t say what the proper sentecing should be, I don’t know the in’s and out’s of law. I just think that this needs to be looked at from all sides. Maye is alive to tell his side, Ron is not. There has to be some kind of justice done. Nothing will bring Ron back, but his family needs some closure.

  19. Sandra — from all the reports I have read, Maye got his three shots off *before* the police identified themselves. It was the middle of the night. The warrant was for his *neighbor*’s house — not Maye’s. Ron busted down the wrong door.
    There is a vast difference between “banging on a door” and “breaking down a door”. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that Ron is dead. What I am saying is simple; a man, with the right to use lethal force to defend his home, did so, and then discovered that the people he was defending his home from were police. As soon as he found out, he disarmed himself and was compliant. From everything I understand of what Maye did, had I been in the same position as he I would have reacted exactly the same way. (Had I been in possession of a firearm, which I am not.)

    For this, he is in line to be executed. Need for closure on the part of decent people is *NEVER* an excuse for the execution of another living being — regardless of how heinous you think him.

  20. Sandra posted @ 4:41 PM the following: “There has to be some kind of justice done.”

    You are absolutely correct here, Sandra. There has to be some kind of justice done. The problem is that the *correct* kind isn’t *being* done.

    Even if Maye were the most deplorable person in the world, from all evidence I have seen made available to the public the only crimes he is guilty of is being scared witless and having poor nightvision.

    I freely admit; a good man died that night. But two wrongs do not make a right.

  21. From what I know and understand, they had a warrant for BOTH sides of the duplex, and they did identify themselves BEFORE breaking down the door. As I said before, I am not for the death penalty. But I don’t think he deserves to get off with nothing either.

  22. Sandra says:

    They announced themselves as the police. people dont announce themselves as the police in Prentiss unless they ARE the police.

    Hmm. Perhaps the criminals should start annoucing themselves as police.

    Oh wait! They (cops) already do! Carry on.

  23. Sandra — Can you state (swearing on a Bible), without any doubt in your mind, that Maye shot the officer with malicious intent? If so, on what evidence do you make your case?

    If not, it would seem that you would have voted to acquit had you been sitting on that jury, too.

  24. You are slandering good police officers as criminals and “dirty cops” which they are not. Unless you know these men, you have no basis for that un-needed comment.

  25. Honestly, I don’t know. I wasn’t at the trial. I don’t have every piece of evidence in front of me.

  26. I don’t know. I wasn’t at the trial. I don’t have all the evidence in front of me. I can’t say what i would have done.

  27. Also, the admin of this blog has now blocked my original email address, so obviously, this is a biased site which has no interest in conflicting views.

  28. Sandra — the block is probably from a lot of postings in short sequence (part of the spam filtering). I just manually cleared the only two blocked ones I could find.

  29. Sandra, you keep going on and on about what a good man Ron was, but that is completely irrelevant to the case. When someone comes bursting into your home in the middle of the night, you are hardly in a position to assume the intruder is “kind and respectable”.

    Furthermore, you say that “killing a police officer is grounds for the death penalty” (despite your claim that you are not even for the death penalty!) Had Maye shot and killed some civilian barging into his home in the middle of the night, would you still refer to him as a murderer and call for his execution? Do you really believe the lives of police officers are worth more than us common civilians? I submit that this attitude is directly responsible for the growing number of violent abuses committed by authority figures and is tarnishing the reputations of the genuinely respectable officers among them.

  30. I said it was grounds because it is in Mississippi, thats the law. Not my opnion, just the law. I think police officers have the right to take certain liberties when it comes to enforcing the law. I do not believe in needless brutality. If it had been just an intruder, then I wouldn’t have blamed Maye at all. But it wasn’t a common criminal, it was a police officer with a warrant. (And yes, maye’s side of the duplex was listed on the warrant)

  31. Do you really believe the lives of police officers are worth more than us common civilians?

    Good point. I’d always wondered that about police-worshippers.

    I submit that this attitude is directly responsible for the growing number of violent abuses committed by authority figures and is tarnishing the reputations of the genuinely respectable officers among them.

    Agree 100%.

  32. I am not a police worshiper. The basic point is we all agree that Maye did infact shoot and kill Ron Jones. What we dont agree with is the punishment.

  33. And you’re sure, without a doubt, that Maye KNEW it was an officer breaking down his door in the middle of the night. Care to share your evidence – and by evidence, I mean something more than “the police testified that they announced themselves”.

    I’m fascinated that you seem to think police are above lying.

  34. I know every one of the officers in Prentiss, and I know their character. I do not think Maye deserves a medal. That is beyond disgusting and absurd. I do not know if he knew it was the police. It I had to speculate, I would say he had a good idea of who it was. Most intruders will not knock down a door when you live in a duplex. That causes much noise, thus alerting neighbors who can call the police. Most intruders do not announce themselves as police. Most intruders in this area are looking to get something easy to steal and sell, or better yet a little cash. Most of them are drug addicts looking for a little money to score their next hit. Knowing that and the fact that he thought someone was intruding and never bothered to dial 911, makes you wonder. I don’t have the evidence, I am not a police officer nor a lawyer. If there is something there that can prove without a doubt he had no idea they were the police, then I am wrong. I have yet to see that.

  35. I am not going to post here anymore as you are allowed your own voice and opinions on here and I am doing no good by stating my own opinion. In the end, everyone will have to hope that a jury will see the facts and make a judgement based on that, which ever side you are on. Only three people know the truth about that nigth for sure, one is Ron who is dead, one is Maye who no doubt wants to be off death row and the other is God.

  36. Sandra – there are others who know precisely what happened. The men who beat Corey Maye after he shot Ron. That he shot Ron is not in question. However, speculating on the “questionable-ness” of someone not calling 911 when someone – known or unknown – has just busted down the door is facetious at best. Think; this is an extremely violent event. Cory is, like it or not, a black man in the deep south. Even in the north we get raised with the story of lynch mobs. How much more in the deep, subconcious mind must that image be for someone who is of the target audience in the appropriate territories? Fear makes people do stupid things. And just because you’ve got a badge doesn’t mean you’re a lawful individual. Keep in mind here that I am *NOT* implying an actual lynching was in progress.

    One last bit. The vast majority of people who knew serial killers all thought them quiet, polite, well-mannered, honest and upright individuals. They were all wrong.

  37. Though I doubt that Sandra will see this, perhaps someone should mention the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

    “If there is something there that can prove without a doubt he had no idea they were the police, then I am wrong.”

    He (and everyone else) shouldn’t have to prove that he had no idea the police were breaking into his home. That’s what the presumption of innocence is all about. The police should have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Maye knew they were police, not the other way around. And from what I’ve seen thus far, they haven’t.

  38. Not true. That would mean “not guilty by reason of insanity” would mean the state would have to prove you aren’t insane, instead you have to prove you are. He is saying “not guilty by reason of self-defense”, he has to prove it was self defense. Also, on the note of serial killers, Aieleen Wuerenos (sp?) claimed self-defense too. If you didnt have to prove it was self-defense we would have a lot of murders out on the streets. As far as him getting “beaten”, you have 4 people saying that didn’t happen and one saying it did, being the defendent. The police have no reason to lie about his actions, he has the biggest reason of all to lie- to save his life. Also, no one answered my question of, if Ron had been black or Maye had been white, would you still be fighting this battle?

  39. Sandra: It appears that you are saying that if Maye wasn’t absolutely sure that the person breaking into his house didn’t have murderous intent, he shouldn’t have defended himself. But he was awakened in the middle of the night by someone breaking into his home. How careful a decision is it possible to make under the circumstances? Should he have waited till the intruder had time to slash his throat and his kid’s, as was a distinct possibility? Or should he have relied on the noise to conclude that the intruder did _not_ have violent intent?

  40. Are you kidding? The police have no reason to lie about their actions? How about job protection? How about civil liability? Of COURSE they’ll say they didn’t beat him, because if even one of them admitted it, they’d all likely land in some form of disciplinary hearing, and Maye could file a civil suit in court. They have as many reasons to lie as Maye did, nor are they above doing so. Cops are still human beings, Sandra, and wearing a badge isn’t proof of honesty.

    You are still avoiding the issue by bringing up insanity pleas, or are you trying to deny that the presumption in this country is supposed to one of innocence? The prosecution still has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Maye knew he was being raided by the police and choice to shoot. And no matter how much you choose to pretend, it still boils down to one person’s word against another – which is NEVER sufficient to prove anything when both sides have motives to lie.

  41. I’m not going to argue my point anymore. You are just as strong in your convictions as I am in mine. All anyone can hope for is that the justice system works, no matter which side you are on.

  42. Here is another person for you bleeding heart liberals, Gregory Holmes. He was black, killed a white man, during a “road rage” incident. They want to get him for murder as well! Can you believe it? People actually want to TRY someone for murder when they kill someone in cold blood! I was shocked too! What is this world coming to when you can’t kill someone and get away with it!

  43. Er, killing someone in cold blood is wrong, and none of us here support it. (As far as I know.)

    What happened here is Cory Maye shot and killed a so-called police officer who was in the middle of committing a felony.

    Unless you want to argue that any police officer can commit crimes with impunity, as long as they’re wearing their uniforms?

  44. felony..he had a warrant. might as well save all black murderers. that seems to be your only problem with this was he was black..so save em all.

  45. yeah and i am sure cory maye is so innocent. sounds like a real stand up guy. by the way, where is his remorse for taking another life? or is he just concerned about HIS life?

  46. by the way, where is his remorse for taking another life? or is he just concerned about HIS life?

    I’m sure if I was on death row, I’d also be more concerned with my own life, rather than that of the heavily armed intruder who recklessly burst into my home in the dead of night who I killed in self defense.

  47. Well, I;m sorry but his story holds no water and won’t sway jurors. It didn’t in the first trial and it doesn’t now. The only thing you really care about is he is a black man in the south on death row.

  48. Fact: Dumb cop kicks in door of innocent man not named on search warrant.

    Fact: Police had no search or arrest warrant for Cory Maye.

    Fact: Cop is dead now for his own ignorance.

    Fact: Cory Maye did Mississippi a favor by ridding the SOuth of another dumb drug-war cop who does not follow protocol by entering a residence quietly and with his gun holstered.

    The cop entered another man’s home illegally. He deserved two more shots to the chest.

  49. I am from Prentiss although I no longer live there, I do visit and nothing has changed. People do lock there doors, there is a large amount of drugs, there are crack heads, there have been murders, there is discrimination, just another day like the heat of the night. I bet Sandra went to the private school and is a member of the country club and attends one of the churches downtown. If she feels so safe in this small city, why have an alarm system. Prentiss has the same issues as the large cities and the same problems, the only difference is the younger crowd is not the yassah massa type. Everyone who grew up in Prentiss has weapons to protect themselves, not only in there homes, in the barn and in your vehicle.Another Black life destroyed by a Barney type cop in the Mississippi corrupt system.

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