Dear Kweisi Mfume, Maxine Waters, Min. Farrakhan and Others
THIS BLACK MAN...should not be on Death Row.
I am trying desperately to find out what we as people can do about this.
The Strange Case of Cory Maye
By Keith Boykin
December 15, 2005 01:03 PM
Picture this. You're a black man asleep in bed at home in Mississippi. It's the night after Christmas 2001, and no one else is in the house but your 18-month-old daughter. You hear a loud thud and suddenly the sound of feet stomping on the floor outside your bedroom door. You grab your gun. A white man bursts into your bedroom with a gun. You shoot first. He dies. Is this self-defense or murder?
Let me add a few facts in favor of the prosecution. The white man lying on your bedroom floor is a police officer. Moreover, he's the son of the police chief. And his fellow officers say he identified himself as he was conducting a lawful warranted search of the apartment for drugs. Police say they found traces of drugs in the apartment.
But here are the facts in favor of the defendant. Even if the police officer did identify himself, the defendant was asleep and never heard it. The warrant the police used did not list Cory Maye as a suspect but instead listed a different suspect in a different apartment in the building. There were no drugs found in Maye's apartment that day, although the police later changed their story to claim that they found traces of drugs. The defendant had no prior criminal record. As a black man in Mississippi, he feared for his life and the life of his young daughter. Yet the defendant was convicted of murder by a mostly white jury and sentenced to death. The defendant, Cory Maye, now sits on death row.
Should Cory Maye Die?
The question is: Should Cory Maye die?
Radley Balko has been blogging about this case for some time, and Terrance at Republic of T convinced me to look into it.
Even accepting the police version of the facts, this case does not amount to murder. At worst, this is a case of negligent homicide, but even that argument is weak considering the defendant fired his weapon in his own home with the reasonable fear that his life and his daughter's life were being threatened.
For all the tough talk from the right-wing about the right to bear arms and protect your home, it's shocking that they haven't taken up the case of Cory Maye. Is it because he's young, black and poor in Mississippi? What if a rich white man in Virginia tried to defend himself against a mistaken police intrusion in his house? Oh, never mind, the police never seem to make those mistakes with rich white folks.
I'm not convinced Cory Maye should be in jail at all, much less on death row awaiting execution by lethal injection. For the record, I remain opposed to capital punishment in all circumstances, whether the defendant is Cory Maye, Stanley Tookie Williams, Charles Manson, Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler.
But this case is special. If you were concerned about the case of Stanley Tookie Williams, then you ought to be concerned about the case of Cory Maye. And if you weren't concerned about the death penalty for the founder of the Crips gang, then you ought to be concerned about killing a man who simply sought to defend himself in his own home.
Cory Maye should not be killed. No civilized society would execute a man for using reasonable force to protect his home and his family from intrusion. But then, is our society really all that civilized in the first place?
Warrant on Maye's residence (PDF)
Affidavit on Maye's residence (PDF)
Facts on Maye's residence (PDF)
Post-raid evidence sheet on Maye's residence (PDF)
Warrant on Smith's residence (PDF)
Affidavit on Smith residence (PDF)
Underlying facts on Smith residence
Post-raid evidence sheet on Smith residence
*Thank you, Keith Boykin for bringing this to so many people's attention.