Big Cory Maye News

Tuesday, May 16th, 2006

Cory Maye’s attorneys have filed their brief in their motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdice or a new trial. The hearing takes place next month.

If you’ve read anything at all about this case, I’d urge you to take a look at the brief. I realize that a brief’s legal effectiveness is a very different thing than its general pursuasiveness, particularly briefs filed in almost perfunctory post-trial motions like this one. Since I’m not really qualified to comment on its legal merits, I’ll keep my comments limited to its general pursuasiveness.

To that end, it’s devastating. The difference between the top-notch legal representation Cory Maye has now and the minimal representation he had at trial is striking (and frightening, given the stakes). I can’t see anyone reading this thing through and still believing that Maye is the slightest bit guilty, much less that he should be executed. At worst, you could perhaps make the case that Maye acted recklessly, and might have been tried for manslaughter. I wouldn’t agree. But I probably wouln’t be making trips to Mississippi to investigate, or blathering endlessly on my blog, either. Of course, I still think the guy should not only be released from prison, but compensated.

Covington and Burling hired their own forensic expert and their own crime scene investigator to reexamine the autopsy on Ron Jones, the evidence at the scene of the crime, and a number of pieces of evidence that were never brought up at trial, including Jones’ clothing. Both of Covington’s experts have impeccable bona fides. As for the prosecution’s forensics witness, Dr. Steven Hayne, there’s plenty of reason to find him suspect. I’ll get into that a bit later. In any case, I think the exhibits they’ve submitted with the brief leave Dr. Hayne’s testimony in tatters.

For now, you can read the brief here. The report from Covington’s forensics expert is here. And the review of Dr. Hayne’s autopsy is here.

A few new items from the brief that jump out at me:

  • Jamie Smith was never charged for the drugs found in his apartment the night of the raid. But he was charged with drug crimes dating back four months prior. Which means that (1) had Rhonda Cooper acted more quickly and competently, there’s a decent chance she could have found out the identity of the confidential informant whose tip led to the raid on the duplex, and (2) we have yet more evidence that the primary target for this raid was Jamie Smith. Cory Maye is on Death Row today not because he was dealing dope (there’s no evidence at all of that), but because he had the misfortune of living next to a known drug pusher.

    It also makes Jamie Smith’s disappearance — or rather, the fact that officials in Prentiss were so lax in keeping him around — all the more suspicious. Why would they let the only witnesses to a cop’s death, and a guy with a history of drug dealing, skip town so easily?

  • The Wheeler case should get Maye off Death Row. The Mississippi Supreme Court as it stands today doesn’t give Maye a whole lot of reason for hope (I’ll get to that later, too). But it’ll be very interesting to see how that Court could distinguish the facts in Wheeler from the facts in Maye’s case in a way that isn’t favorable to Maye. I just don’t see how it’s possible.
  • Rhonda Cooper’s incompetence at trial is appalling. No interviews of Maye’s friends or family. No character witnesses for the death penalty phase. She didn’t even prepare Maye’s mother and grandmother until minutes before she called them to testify. The fact that she’s been less than cooperative with Maye’s current representation is contemptible. Jesus. A man’s life is on the line. Put your pride aside, suck it up, and give his new legal team what they need.
  • Cooper also knew about the bullethole in the door frame clearly showing an upward trajectory, and ignored it, despite the fact that that piece of evidence would have eviscerated a vital piece of th prosecution’s case — that the raid didn’t transpire as Cory Maye says it did. Still scratching my head on that one. Did she ever visit the crime scene?

    I don’t know if the brief will win the guy a new trial. But it’s an outstanding piece of pursuasive writing. Bob Evans, the Covington and Burling team, and Orin Kerr deserve a ton of credit for the work they’ve done.

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