Friday, December 16, 2005

An Egregious Error

Forget Tookie Williams, the case of Cory Maye in Mississippi scares the hell out of me.

As Radley Balko recounts: "Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frightened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record..."

Wow. Strip away the excess and -- if this re-telling is accurate -- you have a an amazing miscarriage of justice here for the 23-year-old Maye. Police are normally required to announce themselves, knock on the door, and wait a reasonable amount of time for an answer. Exceptions to the rule require specific justifications, such as a suspect's violent past; a no-knock warrant, which was used here, is used to "gain the element of surprise." Except, the officers involved seemingly here didn't take into account that this was a duplex, where more than just the suspect lived (a drug dealer living on one side and Maye on the other). So, ergo, an egregious error.

And, for this, in defending his home from those who didn't identify themselves to him when they knock down his bedroom door, he's now on death row.

It's amazing how prescient the words of The Clash, from more than 25 years ago, apply here. From "the Guns of Brixton":

"When they kick at your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun
When the law break in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting on death row"
All I can say to this case is "Wow."

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