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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: The Plight of Cory Maye

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Plight of Cory Maye

On the morning of December 26, 2001 a tragic event took place in Prentiss, Mississippi. On that morning the life of one would come to an end and the lives of many others would be changed forever. What occurred on that day is but one tragic example of the human cost of the war on drugs.

Local law enforcement obtained a search warrant of a duplex because of suspected drug activity. Jamie Smith was the primary target of the search but investigators convinced the judge to allow the warrant to include Smith’s neighbor’s unit and “persons unknown” inside the unit (the other side of the duplex). This secondary part of the search was where these awful events would take place.

The “persons unknown” turned out to be a twenty-one year-old black male by the name of Cory Maye and his fourteen month-old daughter. Maye, who had no criminal record, had just moved into the apartment taking care of his daughter while his girlfriend worked to support the three of them.

According to Maye’s testimony (pdf), he went to sleep between 9:30 and 10:00 p.m. Sometime after 11:00 p.m. he was awakened by “a loud crash at the front door.” Cory, understandably frightened, ran to the room his daughter was sleeping in, found his pistol, and loaded it. Maye positioned himself lying on his stomach in the dark with his gun ready to fire when he started hearing kicks at the back door. As the intruders broke inside, Maye fired three rounds in the direction of the noise.

Moments later, he learned that he in-fact did not shoot a burglar or someone wishing to do bodily harm to him or his daughter but a police officer lawfully searching his home. To make matters even worse, the police officer he shot was Ron Jones, the Chief of Police’s son. Jones would eventually die from his wounds in the hospital.

The Trial
Maye’s account and the account of the officers on the scene differ on several key facts: whether or not the police announced themselves prior to entry, the number of officers required to restrain the suspect, and the level of cooperation of the suspect. The prosecution’s case was built mostly on the word of these officers and the expert testimony of the person who examined Officer Jones’ body. No other experts where available who could testify to the trajectory of the bullets or the approximate position Maye was in when he fatally wounded Officer Jones. The question of Maye’s guilt was not whether or not he shot and killed a man but whether or not he intended to kill a police officer lawfully executing his duties.

From the State’s closing argument on page 469 & 470 (pdf file):

Take Cory Maye’s testimony. If everything he said was true…He was asleep. Somebody crashes on his door, wakes him up. What did he say he does? He didn’t look out the window, didn’t see who was there.

Say you believe him. He goes to the back room, he gets his gun, he loads his gun, he lays down on the floor behind the bed. He hears a crash. He don’t even look in that direction. He’s laying on the floor. He looks this way, shoots this way. What does that show you? Does that sound like conduct so gravely reckless it manifests an utter and total disregard and indifference to human life?
Cory Maye was concerned about ‘human life,’ his daughter’s and his own. If we are ‘to believe Maye’s testimony,’ an unidentified person was breaking into his private space. He had no reason to expect that a police officer had any reason to be in his personal space (regardless of if the police were legally authorized to search his space) the day after Christmas in the middle of the night!

The State’s closing argument continues, page 470, line 13:

If you take everything he said as being true, he’s at least guilty of murder. He just shoots in the direction of the noise without looking, without calling out, without doing anything. I submit to you that’s totally unreasonable. But if you take what he says to be true, he’s at the very least guilty of murder.
Outrageous! A man breaks into your home and if you don’t give fair warning and proceed to shoot the intruder you are guilty of murder? Is it really unreasonable to believe Maye might have a reason for not warning the intruder? Maybe Maye was concerned that his gun would jamb after warning the intruder. Guns do jamb, misfire, or otherwise fail to fire sometimes. If Maye warned the intruder and the intruder continued to threaten him, his daughter, or his property and tried to fire his gun unsuccessfully, he and his daughter could be dead.

If anything the person intruding bears the responsibility to call out, identify himself, and clearly state his purpose for being there. Even if the officer had done so, he should realize the dangers and take every necessary precaution to keep the situation from escalating (as it tragically did). Consider the element of surprise. The police officers conducting the raid had all sorts of time to plan for this type of situation. Cory Maye, on the other hand, had no idea that a swat team was going to be busting down his door and rummaging through his things in the middle of the night. From Maye’s point-of-view at the time, the person breaking into his home was doing so to deprive him of his life, liberty, or property. In the words of John Locke, Maye perceived an act of war was being waged against him.

From John Locke’s Two Treatise of Government, Of the State of War (Chapter III, Sec. 16):

THE state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man's life, puts him in a state of war with [him]…it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be referred…

(For more on John Locke, click here)

According to accounts of what happened on December 26, 2001 at Maye’s residence, Maye promptly dropped his weapon once he realized that the police where inside his home. Maye no longer had a reason fear for his or her daughter’s safety because he was apparently satisfied that the police were not there to take his life, liberty, or property. Little did he know he would eventually be denied all three by the state.

The Verdict
The jury found Cory Maye guilty of murdering Officer Ron Jones. Apparently the minds of the jurors found no reasonable doubt that Cory Maye intended to shoot a police officer. Apparently if it is the word of the accused is against the word of a handful of police officers that is enough evidence to prove a person guilty and deny his freedom, his property, and even his life. The jury would later come back in the penalty phase and sentence him to death by lethal injection. Yes, the State of Mississippi is executing an individual who could have reasonably been defending himself, his child, and his home. If there was ever a case to demonstrate why the death penalty should be abolished, this must be the one. Maybe this is a little cliché’ but killing Cory Maye will not bring Ron Jones back.

The Media’s Curious Response
A local paper, The Clarion-Ledger, published an article on December 28, 2001 titled: “Young officer shot dead on drug raid called hero”. Like the title suggests, the story was focused on the tragedy of losing an officer who served and protected his community. To the right of the article is a list of other officers who where killed in the line of duty. Officer Jones probably was a hero; no one who defends Cory Maye denies that (at least not from anyone I’ve read so far) but there is much more to this story. There is very little in the article about the circumstances of the shooting leaving the reader to believe Officer Jones was slain by a run-of-the-mill scumbag cop-killing thug. “Cory Maye, 21, one of three people at the duplex at 1728 Mary St. at the time of the shooting, is charged with capital murder in the officer's death.,” the article states.

The local NBC affiliate’s website posted an article after the verdict was known titled: “Convicted Murderer Sentenced to Death.” This short article at least tries to show the other side of the story and is the closest thing to a balanced article from the MSM.

Apart from these articles, very little else has been written about this incident. The national MSM has ignored it completely; the only article I found using a Google search came from CBS News and it is only an article reporting about how bloggers are trying to bring this case more media attention. The article fails to shed any additional light on the case. Most of the information on this case available is being disseminated by bloggers. Radley Balko of The Agitator has led the way researching and reporting the story the MSM cares nothing about. Balko has a more recent column featured on the Fox News website with even more disturbing details.

Cory Maye’s best hope is for people of a variety of viewpoints to come together and demand justice. An unusual assortment of individuals and activist groups have joined this cause. Writers from the National Review Online, Alums of Jerry Farwell’s Liberty University, the ACLU, the NAACP, and Amnesty International, groups which are often at opposite sides of just about every political issue find themselves on the same side. An even more diverse assortment of bloggers have also joined the fight for Cory Maye’s freedom and his life. Instapundit, QandO, the Volokh Conspiracy represent a few of the Libertarian bloggers; Andrew Sullivan,, and ROFAsix represent a few of the Right leaning bloggers; and Daily Kos, Dadahead, and Liberal Avenger represent a few of the Left leaning bloggers who want to spotlight the injustice Cory Maye’s plight (Battle Panda has a more complete running list of blogs divided into ‘Libertarian,’ ‘Red Team,’ ‘Blue Team,’ and ‘Red or Blue Team’).

Wikipedia also has an article about details of the case and a website called has resources available such as legal documents, transcripts from the trial, and two of the local news stories I referenced in writing this post. The story of Cory Maye is one that needs to be told and retold. We simply cannot stand by and allow the State of Mississippi take a man’s life for defending his home regardless of if the MSM wants to give the story the recognition it deserves or not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outstanding synopsis!

I have yet to understand why this case is not being embraced by every Tookie Williams luving liberal in Hollywood and "pry this gun from my cold dead hands" conservative.

Bottom line for many of us ... there but for the grace of God, go I.

12:24 AM  
Blogger Stephen Littau said...

Yeah, I agree NOTR. I could imagine this sort of situation happening to me. I would like to believe that the Tookie crowd will eventually catch on along with the NRA types (so far the NRA doesn't have a position on the case). Maybe the reason is that Maye is newly convicted and won't likley be executed for a couple of decades or so? I think the first step is telling his story.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

In Isaiah chapter 11, it is written: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them."

The first three parts seem like everyday occurrences when compared to National Review,, Radley Balko, DailyKos and Dadahead, the ACLU and NAACP, among others, uniting in Maye's defense.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Difster said...

Oh, but the police are always trustworty. They serve and protect. They're always the good guys. Good cops wouldn't participate in actions that resemble a police state. Oh, goodness no. He must have been a desperate criminal of the worst kind.


4:51 PM  
Blogger David said...

Anarcho-tyranny: state-sponsored violation of basic human rifghts leading to (legitimate) disrespect for the law and those who are tasked with enforcing it. In cases such as this all the way down to the cop speeding to his coffee break: police disrespect for the law and for lawful conduct breeds ever greater disrespect for both them and the laws they supposedly uphold.

The so-called "war on drugs" has so-called law enforcement seizing real estate of people who unknowingly rent to someone who commits unlawful acts; invasions such as this (the receptionist at a local non-profit dental clinic was raided recently when the sheriff's department couldn't tell an even numbered side of the strteet from an odd-numbered side of the street. The damage caused? Not the sheriff's fault, apparently... ); and many, many other abuses.

And who's winning? The druggies and their dealers and... law enforcement agencies who are seeing bigger and bigger budgets and more and more power acrue...

6:07 PM  
Blogger supercat said...

Many of the people who opposed the execution of Tookie Williams would probably have sought to convict Cory Maye even if the person who broke into his house had been a convicted child rapist there to attack his daughter. They find the concept of a person killing someone because the decedent was a violent criminal more abhorent than the concept of a person killing someone because the killer was a violent criminal.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Anton Sherwood said...

"Officer Jones probably was a hero"?? He may have believed – just like 19 guys on 4 airplanes believed – that he was acting in the cause of righteousness, and perhaps it was very brave of him to charge into a house that he believed to be unoccupied wearing only a "get out of jail free" badge and a bulletproof vest; but the fact remains that he was carrying out a terroristic operation in an illegitimate campaign, acting on the sole word of an anonymous informant (later revealed to be a crackpot racist). Is that worth 72 raisins?

1:23 AM  

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