Cory Maye’s Appellate Brief

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Mississippi public defender Bob Evans and several attorneys at the D.C.-based Covington & Burling law firm have filed a brief with the Mississippi Court of Appeals on behalf of Cory Maye.  This is the fist step in Maye’s appeal of his capital murder conviction for killing Prentiss, Mississippi police officer Ron Jones during a botched drug raid on Maye’s home in December 2001.  You can download and read the brief here.

I’m obviously reading the brief as a partisan, and as someone who isn’t a lawyer, but I find it enormously convincing.  It also illustrates just how bad Maye’s trial attorney really was.  You wonder how many other criminal defendants’ cases would look a whole lot different were they able to procure the service of a top-notch law firm.

There is one bit of new information in the brief that I’m embarrassed to say seems to have escaped everyone the past few years, including me:  If you look back through the trial transcripts, there’s no testimony from any of the raiding police officers that they actually knocked on Maye’s door.  There’s testimony that they announced themselves, and that they made several attempts to kick down the door.  But not a single one of them testified to knocking, or to seeing or hearing another officer knock.  Taking the police testimony at face value, they announced “police!”—and then began kicking down the door.

This seems to be pretty important. The prosecution’s contention may have had a bit more weight if the police claimed to have knocked several times and announced themselves before trying to take down the door.  But to yell “police,” and then start kicking without a knock only bolsters Maye’s claim that he thought criminal intruders were breaking into his home.

Put yourself in Maye’s position again.  You’re asleep.  It’s after midnight.  For starters, it’s probably a safe assumption that a sleeping person wouldn’t hear—or at least shouldn’t be expected to mentally process—the initial police announcement.  That’s why knocking is so critical.  Instead, Maye was awoken to the sound of several men trying to kick down his door.  At that point, even subsequent police announcements probably wouldn’t register, or at least you couldn’t blame him for not processing them.  Moreover, Maye’s attorneys note in the brief that one police officer inside the duplex on the other side during the Maye raid says he didn’t hear any police announcement.

But there’s room for more confusion, here, too.  Even assuming Maye heard and processed the police announcement, it isn’t clear that he would have known the announcement was directed at him.  Indeed, he had little reason to think the police would ever break into his apartment.  He wasn’t dealing drugs, and had no criminal record.  He did, however, live next door to a known drug dealer, the presumed target of the raid.  Even assuming Maye heard sirens, or saw lights, or heard a police announcement (and there’s little reason to think he did any of that), it wouldn’t be unreasonable for him to assume it was all directed at his neighbor, and to fear that the person trying to break into his home was his neighbor, or possibly one of his neighbor’s clients, fleeing the police.  After all, the police are supposed to knock before entering, particularly when they’re at the door of someone who hasn’t committed any major crime.  Someone breaking into your home without knocking, in the dead of night, is more likely to be a criminal.

The warrant to search Maye’s home, incidentally, was not a no-knock warrant.

The rest of the brief articulates the myriad other problems with Maye’s conviction already discussed here at reason and at my personal blog, but in a manner more tidy, pithy, and convincing.

Covington & Burling attorney Abe Pafford says he expects the court to hear the case early next year.

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25 Responses to “Cory Maye’s Appellate Brief”

  1. #1 |  MassHole | 

    Good work Radley. Let’s hope some justice is done here. This could happen to anyone.

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    fantastic news! is there any way to contribute to his daughter’s Christmas or well-being? I remember a fund that was set up for Cory, but haven’t heard anything about his daughter or how his family’s holding up…

  3. #3 |  ka | 

    I am about 1/2 way through Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen’s book “On Combat.” They talk extensively about auditory exclusion under stress. Even if they were shouting “Police”, after they kicked in his door Mr Maye’s stress level could have caused his hearing to shut down.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Bursting into a nonviolent suspect’s house after midnight does nothing but increase the likelihood of an unpredictable fearful reaction on the part of the suspect. Of course, being a suspect makes him fair game since “he probably did something wrong and has it coming to him”.

    In other words, this kind of behavior on the part of cops is not a reasoned strategy. They do it because it adds to the fun and excitement and “because they can”.

  5. #5 |  Lucy | 

    Jesus Christ, I can’t believe he was ever in jail, much less STILL in jail after all this time. (I can’t even think about the fact that they were going to kill him, otherwise I am going to die of a rage induced heart attack before I am 25.)

    Is there anything we can do to help, Radley? Donate somewhere? Once again, props to you for doing such good work on this case.

    I can’t believe there are people that smirk and accuse me of being a stoner when I say drugs need to be legalized. My only consolation is that many of them probably have no clue that this kind of thing goes on. Still, it drives me insane.

    They say don’t be a one issue voter, and I’m not, but THIS shit is why I will never vote major party. Nobody who keeps this going will ever get my support.

  6. #6 |  Greg C | 

    So is Covington & Burling one of those firms ( all law firms?) that decides to do one Good Deed for every 100 bad laws they are responsible for passing?

    I just thought it was interesting when I read the name a few posts down in the gambling ban post. I guess it must be something testifying against legislation that powerful lobbyists help steamroll over millions of Americans, and then have the same lobbyists moonlight as Good Guys.

  7. #7 |  Radley Balko | 

    #6 — They’re a huge firm, and I don’t really know what goes into how they determine what clients they choose to take.

    I do know that they’re also representing several of the detainees in Guantanamo, too.

  8. #8 |  Bourgeois_Rage | 

    Thanks for staying after this, Radley. Cory’s case is one of the first cases I heard about on the injustice of police raids. To see this poor guys get drug through the legal system when it seems so obvious that he’s the victim just makes me ill.

  9. #9 |  Ganja Blue | 

    The warrant to search Maye’s home, incidentally, was not a no-knock warrant.

    I thought the warrant was for the adjacent residence, not Maye’s home. So not only did they not knock on the door, it was the wrong door altogether. That fact bolsters the point further that not only did police not knock, Corey had no reason to believe the police would have any reason to be at his door at all. He wasn’t a drug dealer. The police found a roach, a single marijuana cigarette butt, in an ashtray. And for this one life is tragically ended and another tragically taken away. This is the cost of the drug war.

  10. #10 |  Donald | 

    how about posting the brief, or a link to it?


  11. #11 |  Judi | 

    In all honesty, I would have shot then ask questions later myself. Corey is yet another ‘victim’ of the bullshit that goes on in Mississippi.

    The man should have never been arrested in the first place. If he doesn’t get out of this, then there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell for anyone else down there.

    I hope he gets out and sues the crap out of those idiots who kicked his door in and the state for wrongful arrest and conviction.

    Damn, looks like Ole Mississippi just keeps it’s hand on the burner! DUH!@#$

  12. #12 |  AJP | 

    Don – In response to your comment, I believe Radley’s post actually does contain a link to a copy of the filed brief.

  13. #13 |  Eric | 

    That’s an impressive brief.

  14. #14 |  Chris | 

    It isn’t just Mississippi, this crap happens every where. But hey, it is much easier for you to throw rocks at those backwards Southerners, than to look at the cesspools up North.

    Chris Mallory

  15. #15 |  nobahdi | 

    I’m sold. When do they let him out of jail?

  16. #16 |  Ben (the other one) | 

    Ganja, I’m one of the Covington & Burling attorneys working on Cory’s case. Regarding your statement:

    I thought the warrant was for the adjacent residence, not Maye’s home. So not only did they not knock on the door, it was the wrong door altogether.

    The warrant situation is described in the brief, but I’ll try to summarize it.

    There were two warrants at issue in the case. They were essentially identical, describing how to get to the duplex home on Mary Street. The only substantial difference between the two was that one was for a home occupied by Jamie Smith, and the other by “persons unknown.” Neither warrant otherwise said anything about which home it pertained to– no house number, no apartment number, nothing like left/right, or north/south. After the fact, someone (presumably a police officer) jotted down “Apt. 1” on one warrant and “Apt. 2” on the other.

    The testimony at trial was that one of the police officers (Darryl Graves) knew that Jamie Smith lived in the left-hand (northern) home, so he took that warrant for that home, leaving the other for Cory’s. Neither one authorized no-knock service.

    I hope that helps, but I suspect it just confuses things further. All of this is reflected in the brief, in an argument that the warrants lacked probable cause.

  17. #17 |  Greg N. | 

    I was going to Twitter you today asking when this was going to be finished. Fantastic news, and my kids will be pumped! Way to go, everyone involved.

  18. #18 |  Greg N. | 

    How can the prosecution possibly get past “Wheeler”?

  19. #19 |  PrentissResident | 

    I am one of those backwards Southerners that happens to live in Prentiss. I have kept up with this case since it happened and also read this sight regularly to keep up with what’s happening. I was friends with Ron and am still with his family, but I have always thought that Corey got a raw deal. It’s important to understand that small towns like this have generally been run by those in authority forever, and rarely does anybody question them. Prentiss is itself a corrupt town, but nothing compared to the county in which it sits. The New York Times even came down here and did an article on all the giant homes and luxury automobiles. It’s no secrret who the drug dealers and users are in this town and in this county. Funny how a country preacher can become Sheriff and start riding in a Jaguar and buying houses. Our murder rate rivals the biggest cities, with plenty arrests but few convictions. The arrests are usually done to appease the citizens, and when it calms down, evidence is lost or they are just released. If you want to see a small town caught in a time warp, come on down. The facade of country charm hides an ugly reality of drugs and corruption. The state authorities even take a hands off policy to this county and town. It’s sad, but nothing I or anybody can do about it. I’d like to think that there are enough decent people left here to make a difference, but everybody just assumes a “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” policy. Certain members of law enforcement don’t share that philosohy however. In fact, harassment, wrongful accusations and just plain incompetence is not uncommon. Violation of civil rights and failure to follow even the most basic police procedure is commonplace. But the drug trade just keeps on trucking. Maybe I will leave after all.

  20. #20 |  Greg N. | 

    Before you leave, maybe you could share your opinions of the case in a letter or op-ed in the local newspaper. A friend of Ron Jones who thinks Cory got a “raw deal” would be powerful stuff.

  21. #21 |  PrentissResident | 

    Mayor Charlie Dumas owns the local paper so that would be a waste of time. He has proven time and again that he is not interested in justice. Not just in the Maye case, but several others as well.

  22. #22 |  Greg N. | 

    Is he interested in ad revenue? Perhaps a few of us could pitch in for a full-page ad petition, signed by local residents such as yourself.

  23. #23 |  PrentissResident | 

    How bout it Radley? You think Charlie would allow an ad in his paper that disagrees with him?

  24. #24 |  pam | 

    I’ll donate.

  25. #25 |  LiberTea | 

    “Someone breaking into your home without knocking, in the dead of night, is more likely to be a criminal.”

    Corrected: Someone breaking into your home without knocking, in the dead of night, USED to almost always be criminal, now it’s split 50/50….legal OR illegal criminals.