Knock Knock, Bang Bang

by Kieran Healy on December 12, 2005

“Jim Henley”: points us to “Radley Balko’s”: extensive coverage of the astonishing case of “Cory Maye”: Here is “Radley’s initial post”: on the case; and here are a series of posts of his updating and clarifying the details — “1”: “2”: “3”: “4”: “5”: “6”: “7”: and “8”: (the first and last will tell you a lot). He’s been talking to a lot of people involved in the case. Here’s a link to “a lot of commentary”: by others.

_Update_: I’ve updated this summary to better reflect the facts of the case as I understand them.

I’ll put the details below the fold. I urge you to read them. The guts of it is that Cory Maye is a black man on death row for shooting a white police officer dead. The officer was part of a paramilitary no-knock drug raid which broke down the door of Maye’s apartment at 11:30pm, when he and his young daughter were sleeping. The building was a duplex and the officers had a warrant for Jamie Smith, the person who lived in the other half, and for “occupants unknown” in Maye’s half. It’s not clear that the officers expected anyone to be in that half of the duplex. There’s no evidence that Maye had anything to do with Smith, and Maye did not have a criminal record. When the officers broke in, Maye woke up, took his gun and ran to his daughter’s room. When Officer Ron Jones entered the room, Maye shot him. Jones later died. There is disagreement about whether the officers announced they were the police as they broke in, and what the exact sequence of events was once they were in there. (I don’t think it’s in dispute that Maye really had no reason to expect the police would come breaking down his door at midnight.) Jones was (1) first into the apartment but (2) not part of the SWAT team — he was invited along because he tipped off the Narcotics Task Force about the suspected dealer in the other half of the duplex. He was also (3) the son of a local police chief. Mayes was tried, apparently was not well-represented, and was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death.

Here’s an excerpt from Balko’s “original post”: Parenthetical comments are Balko’s later corrections as he learned more:

Maye today sits on Mississippi’s death row, convicted of capital murder for shooting police officer Ron Jones. It’s probably worth mentioning that Jones is white, and Maye is black. It’s probably also worth mentioning that at the time of his death, Jones’ father was police chief of Prentiss, Mississippi, where the shooting took place. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the jury who convicted Maye was [mostly] white.

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. (Note added on 12/12: This is Maye’s first attorney’s account of the raid. Police did have a warrant to both residences, though Maye wasn’t named in either) 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. Jones, who hadn’t drawn his gun charged in, and made his way to Maye’s bedroom. Police did not announce themselves. (Note added on 12/09/05: Police said at trial that they did announce themselves before entering Maye’s apartment — Maye and his attorney say otherwise. … However, even if they did, announcing seconds before bursting in just before midnight, isn’t much better than not announcing at all. An innocent person on the other end of the raid, particularly if still asleep, has every reason to fear for his life.). 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. Then, mysteriously, police later announced they’d found “traces” of marijuana. I talked to the attorney who represented Maye at trial. She said that to her knowledge, police had found one smoked marijuana cigarette in Maye’s apartment. Regardless, since Maye wasn’t the subject of the search, whether or not he had misdemeanor amounts of drugs in his possession isn’t really relevant. What’s relevant is whether or not he reasonably believed his life was in danger. Seems pretty clear to me that that would be a reasonable assumption.

It apparently wasn’t so clear to Mississippi’s criminal justice system. 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.

Let’s summarize: 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, frigthened 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 [majority] white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.

The story gets more bizarre from there.

Jim quotes a line from Jesse Walker on the evolution of SWAT teams and no-knock raids to the effect that through the 1990s the U.S. began “turning the military into police and the police into soldiers.” This reminds me of a line from a Terry Pratchett novel, where Sam Vimes, the City Watch Commander, is having his police officers pressed into military service by Lord Rust, a power-hungry superior. He turns in his badge in protest, saying “I don’t have to take this.” “Oh, so you’d rather be a civilian, would you?” says Rust. “A watchman is a civilian!” says Vimes. A point worth remembering in the face of fetishization like this. Radley’s done a good deal of follow-up on this case and so far nothing he’s turned up suggests that Maye is anything other than the victim of an appalling travesty of justice.

{ 5 trackbacks }

Outside The Beltway
12.13.05 at 3:07 pm
Blogcoven » Throwing links to the masses
12.13.05 at 3:36 pm » The unified anti-death penalty case
12.13.05 at 4:36 pm
. . . muttered the ogre » save Cory Maye
12.17.05 at 3:48 am
Different River » An Innocent Man on Death Row
12.19.05 at 4:05 am



Patrick 12.12.05 at 11:51 pm

Out of curiousity, are you saying that a)Maye shouldn’t be in jail at all or b) Maye shouldn’t be executed?

B) strikes me as right. A) strikes me as false.

This is just a clarificatory point.


Michael 12.13.05 at 12:07 am

Patrick: A) may be acceptable. It depends on the conduct of the officer in question. If Maye would have been no-billed by a grand jury had the deceased been an armed robber who had just kicked in the door, and if it is possible that Maye was not able to determine if the invader was an armed robber, and if the circumstances were such that he felt that immediate action was required to protect himself and his baby, then I’m all for saying “that’s a damn shame” and letting him go.

Swat team that brings an unarmed, untrained local cop on a raid, now there’s some negligence.


Sebastian Holsclaw 12.13.05 at 12:24 am

I am a full-throated supporter of the death penalty. In this case I tend toward “shouldn’t be in jail” but I am definite about “shouldn’t be subject to the death penalty”. I can see the argument for manslaughter. I don’t see anything close to murder.

One additional point, Jones was not only a cop, he was the son of the police chief. The pressure to punish his killer was surely very intense.

This case illustrates one half of the reason why no-knock and knock-and-bash warrants are so dangerous. The flip side is innocent people getting killed when the police think they are a threat even if they aren’t. These type of searches should be reserved for serious and immediate danger. They are another example of the stupidity that is brought to us by the drug war.


Andrew Edwards 12.13.05 at 12:38 am

I never thought the Clash were describing a real dilemma.

“When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? / With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?”

Can’t say for sure I wouldn’t have done the same thing as Maye did if a bunch of unidenfitied guys ran into my home waving guns at me and my baby daughter. Crazy, just crazy.


Alan K. Henderson 12.13.05 at 12:51 am

This is a no-brainer. Not guilty for reasons of self-defense.


Andy Nemec 12.13.05 at 2:27 am

I vote for A.

It was self defense, and I seem to remember lawyers successfully defending on the basis of belief that a person’s life was in iminent danger.

Note too that they sent a SWAT team, not patrol officers responding to a “routine” (noisy neighbor type) call. Swat teams are heavily armed and armored. They go in with the “Shock and Awe” methodry to catch the supposed wrongdoer unaware.

In other words, they knew this was a risky operation to start with. Things like this are regrettable, but there is the negligence issue that Michael pointed out.

All in all a horrible situation, but this guy should not be in jail to start with.


Brendan 12.13.05 at 3:52 am

The man should clearly not be executed but is there anything that anyone can do? I mean is there a petition to sign or something?


Teddy 12.13.05 at 4:09 am

Guys, two reactions are possible to Balko’s report about Maye’s case: (1) immediate outrage, or (2) suspension of judgment until all the facts of the case are confirmed. I don’t know why Kieran (and others) rushed with (1), when (2) is obviously a more reasonable reaction. By the way, Balko is already backpedalling and admitting that he got some things badly wrong.


abb1 12.13.05 at 6:03 am

You start appeasing citizens – they’ll be shooting cops all the time. This is the matter of principle, you shoot a cop – you die; and be more careful next time. The cops protect our freedom, without them we’d have no freedom.


Sam 12.13.05 at 6:41 am


Balko has been correcting errors to his initial account, not backpeddling. I think the biggest discovery he’s made is that the police did in fact know the building was a duplex and had a search warrent for Maye’s apartment. They just didn’t know who was living in the apartment. Which suggests Maye was implicated because he lived next to a known drug dealer. Despite this, Balko still maintains that Maye got a raw deal. (Actually, to me, this new revelation sounds even worse than the original scenario).


Brett Bellmore 12.13.05 at 7:09 am

I’m all for saying it’s NOT a “damn shame”, and letting him go. Cops executing drug warrants aren’t protecting our freedom, they’re stamping it out. And no-knock warrants are an abomination.

Have we all forgotten that that warrant is as much to tell the subject of the search that it’s a legitimate search, as it is to legitmate it? Until those cops establish to my satisfaction that they ARE cops, and DO have a warrant, I’m within my rights to assume they’re home invaders who rented cop costums. Which does, after all, happen uncomfortably often.


Slocum 12.13.05 at 7:34 am

Which suggests Maye was implicated because he lived next to a known drug dealer. Despite this, Balko still maintains that Maye got a raw deal. (Actually, to me, this new revelation sounds even worse than the original scenario).

I don’t think it would matter if Maye actually had been named on the search warrant and had have drugs in his apartment. If, in the middle of the night, in the dark, armed men burst into your home, you should have the right of self-defense. How can it possibly be otherwise? And even armed men shouting ‘Police’ as they bash the door shouldn’t make a difference (why might a violent criminal not do the same to gain an advantage?)

These kinds of SWAT operations are only justifiable in the rarest of circumstances–hostage situations, for example. They should never be used to prevent criminals from trying to flush drug evidence. From what I’ve heard, Maye should be a free man and receive an apology besides.


Diamond LeGrande 12.13.05 at 7:37 am

Hold on … forget about lefty anti-death penalty types for a moment. (Author forgets self momentarily.) Where is the NRA in all of this? This is a man who used a gun in clear self-defense and now will die for it. We’re talking about the government executing a man for using his Second Amendment rights. It loves talking about jack-booted thugs … well, here they are.


John Lederer 12.13.05 at 8:05 am

The normal common law is that:
1) Someone may use deadly force in defense when they are in reasonable fear of their life or great bodily harm; and

2) One is reasonably in fear of one’s life or of great bodily harm when one’s home is invaded.

So what happened at the trial here? Is there some fact that we are unaware of? Did Maye have reason to know these were police officers? Is Mississippi law different?


Barry 12.13.05 at 8:38 am

John, I’ll lay $20 that Mississippi law is pretty lenient when it comes to gunning down intruders into one’s house. I think that it comes down to (1) when the police kick down your door, you don’t have rights – Mississippi also has a long tradition of state terror; (2) son of the chief of police, and (3) a black man shooting a white man.


Steve LaBonne 12.13.05 at 8:45 am

It’s always best to have all the facts before making up one’s mind. Having said that, from what I’ve just read it definitely sounds to me like this guy can make at least a prima facie case of self-defense. He badly needs a really sharp pro bono lawyer, and I sure hope he gets one.


asg 12.13.05 at 8:48 am

Balko makes the excellent point that the burden of rationality is on the citizen. Police make these paramilitary raids, intentionally confronting citizens late at night or early in the morning when they are not alert and when they are not expecting anything, and they are almost never sanctioned when they shoot innocent citizens in the course of these raids. Why? Because police need to be able to protect their lives against dangerous criminals and they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt, or so the story goes.

Citizens, however, are severely punished when they defend themselves against armed intruders who do not identify themselves, because it is their responsibility to be able to immediately distinguish criminal intruder from SWAT team, even if they were sleeping seconds before the raid and thus are not in yet in full control of their faculties, or live in high-crime areas where it’s not implausible that armed criminals WOULD do a brazen home invasion, or have no criminal records and thus no reason to suspect that the intruders are police. They get no benefit of the doubt; they usually get charged with something and need a jury to acquit. Thus the burden of rationality is on the citizen.


Church Secretary 12.13.05 at 9:01 am

You start appeasing citizens – they’ll be shooting cops all the time. This is the matter of principle, you shoot a cop – you die; and be more careful next time. The cops protect our freedom, without them we’d have no freedom.

Abb1, are you being ironic? I certainly hope so. I’d hate to think that someone who could so wonderfully craft such delicious irony is actually a sincere idiot. Say it ain’t so…

Anyway, the police violated the 4th amendment, and the court urinated on the 2nd. Gee, there’s enough here to anger wingers and progressives alike. That part of Mississippi must really be screwed up.


abb1 12.13.05 at 9:31 am

1997: Minister Dies As Cops Raid Wrong Apartment

A 75-year-old retired minister died of a heart attack last night after struggling with 13 heavily armed Boston Police officers who stormed the wrong Dorchester apartment in a botched drug raid.

The Rev. Accelyne Williams struggled briefly when the raiding officers, some of them masked and carrying shotguns, subdued and handcuffed him, then he collapsed, police said.

Williams, a retired Methodist minister, was pronounced dead of cardiac arrest at 4 p.m. yesterday at Carney Hospital said hospital spokesman William Henderson.

There is a likelihood or possibility that we did hit the wrong apartment, said Police Commissioner Paul Evans at a news conference last night. If that’s the case, then there will be an apology.



Teddy 12.13.05 at 9:36 am

As I said, outrage is fine, but first make sure that you got the facts staright. Let me draw your attention to what the prosecutor in Maye’s case said (when he was interviewed by Balko): “The issues in the case are; 1.Did Jones have a warrant, 2.Was he serving the warrant as a law enforcement officer and 3. Did Maye know he was a law enforcement officer when he shot him. The jury decided these things.” Isn’t it premature under the circumstances to conclude that we KNOW that it was all just blatant racism?


Sebastian Holsclaw 12.13.05 at 9:59 am

“Maye’s attorney tells me that after the trial, she spoke with two jurors by phone. She learned from them that the consensus among jurors was that Maye was convicted for two reasons. The first is that though they initially liked her, Maye’s lawyer, the jury soured on her when, in her closing arguments, she intimated that if the jury showed no mercy for Maye, God might neglect to bestow mercy on them when they meet him in heaven. They said the second reason May was convicted was that the jury felt he’d been spoiled by his mother and grandmother, and wasn’t very respectful of elders and authority figures.”



Duane 12.13.05 at 10:13 am

It’s really a lose-lose story politically for both sides. The left runs the risk of appealing to lawlessness, disorder and cop-killing. The right runs the risk of appearing sympathetic to drug dealers, black people and THAT ILK.

It would have been so much easier if Maye had been white and Jones had been black. Then everyone could celebrate that a corrupt black cop intending harm to a one year old white baby had been righteously slaughtered by a courageous white Southerner, while the Second Ammendment beamed down proudly from its frame on the wall beside his gun rack.


the snob 12.13.05 at 10:16 am

So if they shout “Police!” as they charge in, the only thing you can do is throw your hands up? That’s a useful tip for anyone looking to get into the home-invasion business. At first glance it appears Mr. Maye is getting a very raw deal, but even if there’s another shoe waiting to drop, it does highlight the fact that these situations are possible primarily because of no-knock raids. Is it worth a cop getting killed to take down a major organized crime figure or terrorist? Yes. But not a low/mid-level drug dealer.


Grand Moff Texan 12.13.05 at 10:22 am

The officer was part of a paramilitary no-knock drug raid which broke down the door of Maye’s apartment in the middle of the night

Something like this happened in Texas a couple of years ago. Cops had the wrong house, didn’t identify themselves, man tried to shoot what he thought were burglars and got shot to ribbons.

Cops later tried to claim they’d been shouting “police! police!” but unfortunately for them there were too many witnesses to the contrary.

The raids in question eventually netted a few grams of marijuana.


Grand Moff Texan 12.13.05 at 10:24 am

I also recall a similar incident involving bounty hunters. Not cops: bounty hunters. Target wasn’t in the apartment, man defends his home, they shot him and his girlfriend to death.

No consequences.

And so it goes.


ent lord 12.13.05 at 10:38 am

Mississipi law on justifiable homicide offers as one definition:

(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;

In the event this is not the case, there is also the instance of excuseable homicide where there is a death resulting from accident or misadventure.

This case reminds me of the issue of “hot pursuit” or chasing fleeing suspects. At what point does the danger to the community outweigh the benefit of the apprehension of the suspect? There have been several cases of wrecks being the result of cops pursuing someone for rolling a stop sign. Some areas have banished hot pursuit for scofflaw violations.
The question should be reasonableness or what would a reasonable person do, if awakened in the middle of the night by several men kicking in the front door while shouting “Police” and advancing to the bedroom where the parent and child were sleeping.

Too many cops want to be “cowboys” and deal poorly with the authority thrust upon them. A drug raid isn’t a frat party and someone not a member of the assault team has no business being there.

Just some random thoughts, like what a crap shoot jury trials are. If the jury doesn’t like your looks or your attorney’s looks, you are toast.


PersonFromPorlock 12.13.05 at 10:45 am

Where is the NRA in all of this?

As an ex-NRA member I predict that shortly, NRA members will be getting a mailing about this, complete with a picture of Wayne LaPierre looking solemn and an appeal for contributions.


Steve Jung 12.13.05 at 10:56 am

Let me get this straight. If a Japanese foreign exchange student holding a bottle of champagne knocks on your door, you can shoot him dead, but if armed men smash down your door while you are asleep and rush into your bedroom and you shoot one you’ve committed capital murder? Apparently we need to add Southern Justice to the official list of oxymorons.


Slocum 12.13.05 at 11:14 am

Where is the NRA in all of this? This is a man who used a gun in clear self-defense and now will die for it. We’re talking about the government executing a man for using his Second Amendment rights. It loves talking about jack-booted thugs … well, here they are.

Well, I don’t know where the NRA is on this, but 2nd amendment/gun-enthusiast Glenn Reynolds was well ahead of CT on this story:


CB 12.13.05 at 11:18 am

Abb1 is confused. A little thought experiment. A cop goes crooked and bursts into someone’s home unannounced looking to rob them and possibly harm them. The person shoots them in fear for their life and that of their family.

Abb1 would you execute them because, hey, it was a cop? I fully appreciate the police and the difficult job they do, but this man was railroaded by Mississippi insdier playing. There are some police who don’t belong on the job, or deserve teh authority, and I think we’ve located a few in Mississippi. They bust into the wrong house unannounced (and that’s what a no-knock raid is, up until the moment someone shouts out “police”, if the other person hears them) and one of them gets shot. Now the guy who, scared for his kid and himself, did it is going to die anyway, because some police chief can grease the path to the gurney.

That’s what it sounds like and it stinks. That Chief of Police should have his badge ripped off in front of the whole town and stomped on, by the newly released Maye, if there’s any justice in Mississippi.

This is the fatal flaw of the death penalty. People can abuse it if they are in the right positions of authority in the right places.

Where’s Danny Glover when we actually need him?


CB 12.13.05 at 11:20 am

Let me clarify the above – I’m not suggesting the cop who was shot in the actual case was crooked (though, given the current form of the police there, I have great doubts about his father), but rather that there’s no way to simply say, shoot a cop – you get executed, without knowing all the facts of the case and the mitigating circumstances. You take away that and you give the bad cops license to do anything. That won’t protect anyone’s freedom.


bryan 12.13.05 at 12:08 pm

“I never thought the Clash were describing a real dilemma.”

This made me laugh because I figured you really were surprised.


abb1 12.13.05 at 12:08 pm

All right, all right, my mistake. Forget it. I didn’t realize this could be interpreted as a serious comment.


Brett Bellmore 12.13.05 at 12:49 pm

“2.Was he serving the warrant as a law enforcement officer”

No, he was not serving the warrant. “Serving” the warrant consists of showing it to the named person, and letting them read it. He was executing the warrant. The problem is that until the warrant has been served, nobody is on notice that the police actually have any legal right to conduct the search, and so people may reasonably act on the presumption that they’re being criminally invaded.

Maybe if more cops paid for no-knock searches with their lives, the practice would fall out of favor.


CalDem 12.13.05 at 1:33 pm

I’ve got a 9 month old son in the house. Anybody breaks down my door they are getting both barrels. I can’t believe anybody on the libertarian/conservative end of the political spectrum would think that was wrong.


rick 12.13.05 at 2:07 pm

I lived in Prentiss for a few years. Interesting part: from what I understand Corey was tried in Marion Country, about 40 miles away. Prentiss is in Jefferson Davis County, which is majority black. Prentiss is the county seat, has a courthouse, etc., so why was the case moved ut of county?


MQ 12.13.05 at 2:09 pm

This comments thread is reminding me why libertarians are different from Republicans, and why I like them more.


Jack 12.13.05 at 2:09 pm

Not guilty, PERIOD.

The police’s story does not make sense. They claim that they did not know it was a duplex and that they thought the door was a side entrance to the dwelling they had already entered. If that is the case, then why would they have redundantly announced their presence?

There is simply no motive for a criminal act on the part of Mr. Maye. He had no criminal record and was not fleeing from justice. He had no grudge against the officer. No resonable, otherwise innocent person who knew that a major SWAT operation was taking place in his home would think that he could make an escape by shooting an officer.

The only rational motive for Maye’s actions was that he believed that his home was being invaded by a criminal and that his family’s lives were in danger. This is all that really matters when we judge whether the man is guilty of murder, manslaughter or perhaps no crime at all. It is intent that defines the line between murder and manslaughter. Maye’s intent was to defend his family in a circumstance where most reasonable people would have taken the same action. His intent was obviously not to murder an officer of the law.

Maye did not start trouble of any kind and never posed any threat whatsoever to the community. Trouble – literally – smashed down his door and woke him up in the middle of the night. It was a situation that he did not invite and had nothing to gain from.

If an intruder knocks down someone’s door and enters his bedroom with a weapon brandished, the occupant has the right to open fire. Whether the intruder is police officer or not is totally irrelevant. If that officer did not make it clear that the police are entering the home with a valid warrant then the occupant has every right to shoot. Any lesser standard than this and suddenly you are putting people all over the country in a position where they will have to hesitate to defend themselves and play 20 questions with home intruders before taking action. Innocent people will end up dead when intruders are offered the extra time to shoot first.

Cory Maye’s actions were reasonable, prudent and even commendable (even though the results in this case were tragic). If every home intruder were met with a volley of gunfire then there would be a whole lot less crime in America.


rdd 12.13.05 at 2:48 pm

Uh, mq #35, I’m a Republican and not a libertarian, and, assuming the facts are as advertised, I think Maye ought to be a free man. It is an outrage that he was charged. Don’t know why you had to spoil this thread with ignorant political comments.

It is standard Republican politics to support (a) the 2d Amendment, and (b) the right to self defense, (c) esp. in defense one’s home. Heck, Republicans get bent out of shape in defense of those values even when they shouldn’t — see Waco and Ruby Ridge.


Matt Austern 12.13.05 at 2:51 pm

I don’t see any reason for accusing either the left or the right of hypocrisy here. Whether it’s “Where’s the NRA?” or “Where’s the ACLU?”, it looks to me like the answer is the same: people who hear about this case get outraged, because it’s a pretty clear travesty of justice. I have yet to hear about any advocacy organization that’s withholding support because of partisanship or some desire to find cases that fit into a different kind of ideological box.

(As a practical matter I don’t know if either of those organizations will provide legal help in this case; it’s not all that close to the core competency of either one. But all that means is that no one organization can do everything.)

So it’s probably best to can the suggestive questions. As far as I can tell, this is at least one instance where they aren’t deserved.


asg 12.13.05 at 2:54 pm

It’s also worth pointing out, as Balko does repeatedly, that Maye was not charged with, or convicted of, *any other offense*. In other words, the police and prosecutor have implicitly conceded that Maye had done nothing wrong when the officers barged into his home.


Aric 12.13.05 at 2:55 pm

As Glenn Reynolds pointed out, this is the exact flip side of the recent airport shooting in Miami. Again, you had a person making a very reasonable, but very wrong assumption, and tragedy resulted.


Joe 12.13.05 at 3:08 pm

The same goddammed people who screamed about Janet Reno and the Branch Davidian raid want this man to die. Bullshit.

I say we tell the Repubs that Janet Reno ordered the raid and that it was a few ATF agents who were killed. They will build a monument to Maye and Bush will pardon him before sunset.


dipnut 12.13.05 at 3:15 pm

I’m glad you picked this up, Kieran.


jmcq 12.13.05 at 3:26 pm

Two Saturdays ago I was sleeping on the couch with one of my two-and-a-half-year-old daughters when I was awakened by what I thought was something knocked over by the cats. From the kitchen doorway I saw that the back door was open, and that someone was standing just inside. He was a burglar who had just snatched my wife’s purse, as it turned out, but I didn’t know it at the time — I could see him only in silhouette, I didn’t know his intentions and I didn’t know if he was armed. All I knew was that there was a big stranger in my house, I was standing midway between him and my daughter, and at that moment I didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.

As I watched him sprint away down the street, one of my only cogent thoughts between the initial fright and the subsequent adrenalin rush was that if I’d had a gun I might well have used it.

That Jones died is a tragedy. That Maye is in jail at all is a travesty. The real guilt lies with whomever came up with a policy of no-knock searches in a place where anyone who makes a forced entry into a house, especially unannounced and at night, can reasonably expect that residents will defend themselves with guns.


Daniel McAndrew 12.13.05 at 3:34 pm

Where is the judge in all this?

The judge could have reversed the findings of the jury – provided he felt their evaluation and judgement was wrong.

By implication then – does he feel the same as the jury? Has anbody asked?

(Why do I hear “railroaded” somewhere?)


decon 12.13.05 at 3:41 pm

Why would the NRA want any part of this? Maye would have been better off without a gun.


kokopelli 12.13.05 at 3:59 pm

A related situation is playing out in Colorado.

Over the last few years several guys have bought flashing lights and cop uniforms and pulled over unsuspecting motorists. If they’re young, cute, and alone this is often followed by a rape.

The state has responded by making impersonation a felony instead of a misdemeanor, running PSA statements that it’s okay to pull to the lighted or place with other people and to call 911 to verify that it’s a cop behind you, etc.

What has NOT been done is the blindingly obvious one — prohibit traffic stops by unmarked cars. (There’s an exception for felony pursuits, but it may still require a marked vehicle at some point.)

Some speeders will get away, but what is that compared to helping prevent a rape?

BTW even the traffic violation argument seems pretty weak to me. If you want speeders, put out one cop with a radar gun and a bunch of marked cars and motorcycles to pursue them. Ditto people running red lights, etc.

It should go without saying that I think no-knock raids should not be used for anything other than (alleged) violent offenders and meth labs.


Richard R 12.13.05 at 4:08 pm

#44, I’m a republican and a life NRA member, and shooting instructor.

If the facts are as Randy’s presented them, Maye should be a free man. Everyone in my circles that I’ve talked to about this agrees.

You can accept that this is an issue that cuts across the political spectrum (like Kelo v New London) or just keep mumbling about the evil neo-cons.


Tim Fuller 12.13.05 at 4:23 pm

Live in Jackson Mississippi. Following this closely. Was not aware of this before yesterday. Will do what I can to help collect and disseminate info. We’re a blue town in a sea of red.



Rvman 12.13.05 at 4:58 pm

(Why do I hear “railroaded” somewhere?)

Top ten reasons this is probably a railroad:

Because we have a 1) Black man who shot a 2)white cop, 3) in the black man’s home in the middle of the night, during 4) a no-knock raid 5) based on a tip against the guy next door. He then 6) had his trial moved from his home county, a 7) poor black area, to 8) the predominantly white county of 9) his alleged victim, 10) where his dad is police chief. Bonus points: This is all happening 11) in Mississippi.


Ofc. Krupke 12.13.05 at 5:06 pm

The banning of no-knock warrants isn’t a panacea. If officers knock on the front door in order to serve a search warrant and no one answers (if they’re asleep, for instance), forced entry would have to made anyway.

I hope this case gets the attention it deserves, because on the surface at least, it seems wrong and in need of another look. However, it’s dismaying the way people are leaping to conclusions based on, at best, a casual acquaintance with the facts of the case.


Tom Swift 12.13.05 at 5:26 pm

The “suspend judgement until the facts are in” crowd overlook the obvious. The guy is on death row and can’t afford to wait indefinitely whilst you cogitate. We know enough about the case – not enough to resolve it, but enough to realize that it smells like three goats in series. Some competent legal authority – which may disqualify anyone in Mississippi, I can’t say – needs to examine this, and it won’t happen unless enough of the citizenry make a helluva racket. And that won’t happen if we’re all busy “suspending judgment”.


Anderson 12.13.05 at 5:37 pm

Why would the NRA want any part of this? Maye would have been better off without a gun.

Because “better off without a gun” is not a phrase that the NRA can ascribe any meaning to.


Laika's Last Woof 12.13.05 at 6:27 pm

I’m a Republican, an NRA member, and have personally drawn a firearm on a would-be home intruder.

Hell no Cory Maye shouldn’t be in jail. He did what I would do; he did what any real American would do; he did what you would do. I wouldn’t compare Cory Maye to Randy Weaver only because to do so would be an insult to Cory Maye.

It’s a terrible tragedy that the rookie son of the Police Chief had to die. He was following in his father’s footsteps and probably did so because he looked up to his dad. He was probably a good kid.

He doesn’t sound like a thug, either — according to the report he didn’t have his gun drawn — so I don’t hold any animosity toward him whatsoever. He didn’t deserve to die.

But neither does Cory Maye. In his shoes I would’ve done the same thing, and I know this for sure because I almost did (except my would-be intruder wasn’t a cop — but what if he had been?)

Any of us in this situation might find ourselves on death row — for the simple act of defending our family from an unidentified intruder! We live in a country where that is supposed to be legal.

It also shows one of the perils of having an armed citizenry. It isn’t always the rape prevented or the home invasion thwarted. Sometimes it’s a cop who takes a bullet fired from an innocent man.

For every freedom there is a price. I came out a winner because I had a gun when I needed it, but that isn’t always going to be the case. The Second Amendment isn’t a guarantee of security any more than the First is a guarantee of good news. It’s about having the freedom to secure your own liberty.

That liberty means nothing if you exercise that liberty in good conscience but the state takes your life or your freedom anyway because they made a mistake. Cory Maye acted as any freedom-loving American would, and for that he should be set free.

Then we can grieve over the loss of a young man who would probably have made a good cop.


Joe 12.13.05 at 7:51 pm

As a gun owner this is one of my biggest fears, The day after I moved into my home(which was 10 years old) an FBI agent came looking for someone who used to live there. I can just imagine if the person he was looking for had been a violent felon and they did a no knock and did not announce immediately upon entering my home in that situation there would have been a gun fight and I probably would have wound up dead or in Mr.Mayes shoes. My opinion he should not be in Prison if they did not announce, if they did then manslaughter at the most.


Teddy 12.13.05 at 8:25 pm

The crucial question here: did the narcotics task force sufficiently announce themselves and gave Maye time to peacefully answer the door before forcing entry? Balko cites this as one of the “facts in dispute”. And obviously the jury decided that Maye was in the position to know that he was facing police officers. How can you be so sure that the jury was wrong? I find it hard to believe that 12 people would convict a MANIFESTLY innocent man of murder. Why would they do that? The initial explanation that it was racism is undermined by the fact that the jury was actually NOT all white, contrary to the way it was first (incorrectly) reported by Balko.


Joe 12.13.05 at 9:28 pm

You are right however, if there was any doubt should the jury not have defaulted to the beyond a reasonable doubt and acquitted?


Slocum 12.13.05 at 9:50 pm

And obviously the jury decided that Maye was in the position to know that he was facing police officers. How can you be so sure that the jury was wrong?

Because Maye had no criminal record and was not a drug dealer–so why on earth would he knowingly fire on a police officer? That makes no sense at all. It makes a lot of sense, though, that the police would claim, after the fact, that they’d announced their presence, though.

I find it hard to believe that 12 people would convict a MANIFESTLY innocent man of murder.

Right, because we’re all sure that’s never happened before.

Why would they do that?

Perhaps because we have a dead cop, son of the the police chief, an aggressive D.A., an ineffective defense attorney, a jury inclined to give far more weight to the testimony of the surviving police officers than Maye…


Teddy 12.13.05 at 10:46 pm

Slocum, how do you know that Maye was not a drug dealer? According to Balko, the reason the police raided his apartment is that they received a tip from a confidential informant that a large amount of marijuana was being stored there and that there was considerable traffic coming to and from the duplex at unusual hours.

Also, you seem to have problems with probability reasoning. When I say I find it hard to believe that a jury would convict a MANIFESTLY innocent man of murder, I am not saying that this never happens. I am just saying that it happens so rarely that if I hear such reports I tend to take them with a large helping of salt


Michelle 12.13.05 at 11:58 pm

I’m still not getting how they got the warrant for that half. Does anyone? I mean, if some a’hole in my apartment building engages criminal activity, do they get to no-knock search my apartment? Someone who is reasonably suspected of serious criminal activity, say the drug dealer next door if he/she was really a drug dealer, might have more reason to believe a no-knock warrant is legit and therefore less right to shoot the officers involved dead. Meanwhile, jury must’ve somehow decided that this guy was gunning for cops. Nothing else I can think of makes sense, for capital murder charge to stick.


Uskglass 12.14.05 at 12:02 am


What’s “MANIFEST” to you and me might not be so clear to others, especially a jury faced with a real live man whom they may like or dislike for irrelavent reasons, the impassioned and seemingly sincere testimony of Officers of the Law, and (just going on what I read) an annoying defense attorney who’s bad at coaching witnesses.

The deck could be so stacked against him there that the jury members saw something totally different than what we see, even if the facts are the same.


Andy Nemec 12.14.05 at 2:04 am

Michelle writes in #64:

I’m still not getting how they got the warrant for that half. Does anyone?

Presumably, the police went to a prosecutor and judge and got it. Once they have the tipster’s word and some supporting evidence, they get a warrant. Or at least that’s the way it is supposed to work.

However, police often lie, or at least stretch the truth to make a case. They may have told the judge that the suspect was renting both halves of the duplex. Might have told the judge that the second half of the duplex was being used for storage.

Which points out how an incredible lack of attention to detail and basic criminal investigation can result in a horrible situation.

Police, it seems to me, are rather cavalier about such raids. They figure that if nothing is found, then you’re innocent and no harm, no foul.

Truth is, anyone who has gone through even a regular search warrant experience will tell you that it is hell. I’ve known totally innocent people who were in such situations, all due to poor police investigative work. They told me that it is one of the single most demeaning experiences of their lives. You have a crew of cops poking through the most personal of wardrobe items, rifling through your correspondence, and generally tampering with your keepsakes.

Now imagine the added terror of a no-knock. By the time it’s all done with, the victim (and that’s what he or she is at this point) is so relieved it’s over that they don’t want to make a stink about it.

I disagree with the posters who say that no-knock is not the problem. It is part of the problem. But just as much of a factor is poor police work.

Fact is, we do need to protect ourselves. Even from the police. But we also need to raise a stink when incompetent cops set up such situations through their inept action (or lack of action).

Otherwise, we’ll see more of this. And that’s certainly no good.


a 12.14.05 at 4:06 am

“…Police often lie.” A pretty depressing statement if true.

I don’t know, would people’s reactions change at all if it had been a burglar instead of a policeman involved? Burglar enters apartment, citizen shoots him dead. Ok no one would say that action warrants the death penalty, but I thought there are some people who would at least say that the citizen should suffer a penalty for shooting the burglar dead. You don’t just go shooting people, even if they’re in your house. So does a policeman, doing his job, rank lower than a burglar?


Brett Bellmore 12.14.05 at 7:01 am

There are plenty of people, I’m among them, who think you should get a medal for shooting a burglar dead. And if burglary shouldn’t merit the death penalty, maybe burglars shouldn’t take that risk of being killed.

Yes, sometimes you DO go shooting people. Rightly so. Laudably so, as a matter of fact.


a 12.14.05 at 7:10 am

“There are plenty of people, I’m among them, who think you should get a medal for shooting a burglar dead.” I’m well aware that there are many people like you. Sadly.


MQ 12.14.05 at 8:11 am

rdd #39: So it’s not Republicans who are behind the erosion of our 4th amendment rights. Nice to hear. I guess it must be those nefarious liberal Democrats who have been sacrificing individual rights to a giant paramilitary war on drugs for decades now.


gwangung 12.14.05 at 11:29 am

“I don’t know, would people’s reactions change at all if it had been a burglar instead of a policeman involved? Burglar enters apartment, citizen shoots him dead. Ok no one would say that action warrants the death penalty, but I thought there are some people who would at least say that the citizen should suffer a penalty for shooting the burglar dead. ”

I think these people are laughably naive. The culture IS violent and the chances are sufficiently high enough that home invasions would incur not just theft, but bodily harm and death. Those factors would make an armed response a rational one.


David 12.14.05 at 11:46 am

Within the frame of American, gun-owning, shoot-them-before-they-shoot-you, militarized culture, it seems plain that there’s been an injustice in this particular case.

What’s most striking to me about this thread, however, as a Canadian reader, is how normalized that culture seems to be for most of the contributors.

America. Exceptional indeed. Terrifyingly exceptional.


Cala 12.14.05 at 12:06 pm

Re: 69. It depends on the state, and even brett, I’m sure, doesn’t believe in a free-for-all shooting whomever you like in your house.

But on your own property, at night, the homeowner is usually given considerably leeway. He may be at fault (and should be), if it can be shown that the person clearly announced himself. But if someone breaks down the door and storms in, often the law says you don’t have to wait around for them to rape you before you’re allowed to fight back.


sam 12.14.05 at 12:50 pm

Maye’s conviction is complete BS, the cops were negligent in not finding out EXACTLY who they were going to raid before doing a no knock.

No knocks, in and of themselves, are stupid and dangerous. So what if the perp flushes a half ounce of coke down the toilet? Doesnt sacrificing a bit of the case warrant a potentially saved life? And, when no knocks are at the wrong house, often times armed citizens will fire on the cops, getting both the cop and themselves injured/killed. No knocks are just stupid, period.

Lastly, if I were in the same situation and people broke into my house in the night, Id be thinking about my daughter and wife’s safety first. You cant see who it is or decide what their intent is in the dark, it is they who initiated the confrontation by BREAKING INTO YOUR HOUSE. Knock on the door, annouce you are police and allow the ‘suspect’ to answer the door. At least this lessens the chance of mistaken identity and a gunfight.


patrick 12.14.05 at 2:39 pm

what’s the sentencing guidelines that warranted death? even if he was guilty, the highest crime he could be guilty of would be 2nd degree murder, since it wasn’t premeditated. (manslaughter sounds like it fits the circumstances better if you believe he doesn’t have a right to defend his family from an invasion) 2nd degree murder is grounds for capital punishment?


Shelby 12.14.05 at 2:45 pm

I guess it must be those nefarious liberal Democrats who have been sacrificing individual rights to a giant paramilitary war on drugs for decades now.

Yeah, I pine for the Clinton administration and its suspension of the War on Drugs. And have you noticed how New York City, Northern California and Massachussets have all stopped violently enforcing drug laws?

Seriously, Republicans and Democrats are equally guilty of dragging this country into an unwinnable War on Some Drugs. Never kid yourself otherwise.


djw 12.14.05 at 4:27 pm

Patrick, I think that when cops are the victim, the bar is lower for a 1st degree charge in other ways (in some states), but I’m not sure about that.


Steve 12.14.05 at 4:33 pm

And have you noticed how New York City, Northern California and Massachussets have all stopped violently enforcing drug laws?

I take your meaning, but the governors of New York, California, and Massachussets are all Republicans, and in the case of MA and NY, have been since the early to mid Nineties.


Shelby 12.14.05 at 6:00 pm


Fair point, but the lawmakers are overwhelmingly Democrats, and they’re at least as much to blame as the executives. It’s hard to use the drug laws as an excuse to stomp all over everyone if the drug laws are repealed.


TheDeadlyShoe 12.14.05 at 8:10 pm

That’s more of a case of Democratic cowardice than malignance. Mind that it only takes a tiny minority of Democrats to tip the scales.


jimbo 12.14.05 at 9:45 pm

Not only is this case a travesty, I would go so far as to say it would still be a travesty if Maye WAS a drug dealer and HAD been named in the search warrant. A bunch of guys break into your house in the middle of the night, you can’t be expected to react in a cool and collected way, especially if your kid is in the house. These sorts of raids for anything short of an armed militia are a joke, and more about SWAT teams getting their jollies using their shiny toys than about protecting the public.

“What’s most striking to me about this thread, however, as a Canadian reader, is how normalized that culture seems to be for most of the contributors.”

Ah, the whining, oh-so-holy Canadian enters the lists. How a country that invented hockey could have become such a nation of pussies I’ll never understand…


Randy Bates 12.14.05 at 10:39 pm

Implicit in the forth amendments protection from unreasonable searches and seizures is its recognition of individual freedom. That safeguard has been declared to be “as of the very essence of constitutional liberty”
The guaranty of which “is as important and as imperative as are the guaranties of the other fundamental rights of individual citizens.”

Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 304 (1921): cf. Powell v. Alabama 287 U.S. 45, [374 U.S. 23, 33] 65-68 (1932) While the language of Forth Amendment is “general,” it forbids every search that is unreasonable; it protects all, those suspected or known to be offenders as well as innocent and unquestionably extends to the premises where the search was made”

18 U.S.C. 3109 and RCW 10.31.040 violated

“A lawful entry is the indispensable predicate of a reasonable search” in Gouled v. United States, 255 U.S. 298, 30-306, the U.S Supreme court held that a search would violate the Fourth Amendment if the entry were illegal weather accomplished by “force or “obtained by stealth instead of by force or coercion.” Similarly, rigid restrictions upon unannounced entries are essential if the Forth Amendment’s prohibition against invasion of the security and privacy of the home is to have any meaning.

Innocent citizens should not suffer the shock, fright or embarrassment attendant upon an unannounced police entry [374 U.S. 23, 58]

The Fourth Amendment’s protections include the security of the householder against unannounced invasions by police. [374 U.S. 23, 54]

Two reasons rooted in the Constitution clearly compel the courts to refuse to recognize exceptions in other situations [374 U.S. 23, 56] when there is no showing that those within were or had been aware of the officer’s presence. The first is that any exception not requiring a showing of such awareness implies a rejection of the inviolable presumption of innocence. The excuse for failing to knock or announce the officer’s mission where the occupants are oblivious to his presence can only be an almost automatic assumption that the suspect within will resist the officer’s attempt to enter peacefully, or will frustrate the arrest by an attempt to escape, or will attempt to destroy whatever possibly incriminating evidence he may have. Such assumptions do obvious violence to the presumption of innocence. Indeed , the violence is compounded by another assumption, also necessarily involved , that a suspect to whom the officer first makes known his presence will further violate the law. It need be hardly be said that not every suspect is in fact guilty of the offense of which he is suspected and that not everyone who is in fact guilty will forcibly resist arrest or attempt to escape or destroy evidence. [374 U.S. 23, 57]


Anton Sherwood 12.17.05 at 3:20 am

[34] The problem is that until the warrant has been served, nobody is on notice that the police actually have any legal right to conduct the search …

This reminds me of a tv-movie about Ted Kaczynski, of which I saw the last few minutes. The feds show up at TK’s shack and present a warrant. TK says, languidly smiling, “I’ll just read it first.” “It’s seventy pages!” “I got time.” “We don’t.” And they barge in. Now it seems to me that any jerk could come to one’s door with a random bit of paper and say “This is a warrant.” How many of us know what a valid warrant looks like? Not me.

Maybe if more cops paid for no-knock searches with their lives, the practice would fall out of favor.

My heart hopes so, and smiles at the thought of more dead terrorists. (Unlike some, I don’t weep for Johnny Promising here; he knowingly participated in an immoral act.)

My head says, if history is any guide, the political class will try anything to prevent such deaths except backing down. I won’t be much surprised if the outcome is legislation (modeled on England’s) greatly narrowing the self-defense principle; it will be advertised as protecting the householder from temptation to “start” a gunfight.


Uskglass 12.17.05 at 11:13 pm

#81 Jimbo wrote: “Ah, the whining, oh-so-holy Canadian enters the lists. How a country that invented hockey could have become such a nation of pussies I’ll never understand…”

Amazing how much rarer violent crime and murder is there, though, eh Jimbo? Maybe they’re onto something.

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