Yesterday, the Mississippi Supreme Court granted petitions for certiorari to both sides in the Cory Maye case.
Maye was convicted of capital murder in 2002 for shooting and killing police officer Ron Jones during a 2001 drug raid on Maye’s home. Maye says he didn’t now the men breaking into his home were police. Last year, the Mississippi Court of Appeals granted Maye a new trial on a claim that he should have been permitted to move the trial back to the country where the alleged crime was committed after his trial attorney requested it be moved to another county, then thought better of that request. That ruling dismissed some of his Maye’s other claims, but also neglected to address others. The state appealed the court’s ruling for a new trial on the venue claim. Once they did, Maye’s attorneys filed their own appeal, asking the court to address the other issues the appeals court dismissed or declined to discuss.
The Mississippi State Supreme Court has a pretty high rate of reversal when it takes up cases from the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which would seem to be bad news for Maye. But this case is more complex. The only thing that’s clear at this point is that the court is divided.
Looking at the votes to grant cert, four justices granted cert only to Maye’s claims. Three justices voted only to grant cert to the state’s claims. One justice voted to hear both, and one voted to hear neither. That makes for some complicated reading of the tea leaves.
The court could do several things, here. It could simply uphold the appeals court ruling and send the case back to Jefferson Davis County for a new trial. It could overturn on the venue issue, but grant a new trial on a different claim. It could both uphold the appeals court and rule in Maye’s favor on additional claims, which could limit the way the state is permitted to present its case at the new trial. Or, of course, it could overrule the appeals court, dismiss all of Maye’s claims, and Maye would be back to life without parole and no prospect of a new trial. There’s also a slim possibility that prior case law—particularly the case of Wheeler v. Mississippi—could compel the court to actually order an acquittal.
So this may actually be good for Maye, though I suspect he and his attorneys would have preferred the certainty of the court refusing cert and proceeding directly to the new trial.
My 2006 article on Maye’s story here. And here’s the award-winning Reason.tv documentary on Maye, Mississippi Drug War Blues.