Category: Cory Maye

A Letter From Cory Maye

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I had originally planned to post a video interview with Cory Maye for you this afternoon. But he’s understandably overwhelmed with emotion today. I’ll touch a bit more on this in a piece I’m working on for Huffington Post, but just after the plea was finalized, Maye read a statement he had written to the family of Ron Jones, Jr.. He then left the courtroom for a witness room in the back. I went in to talk with him. Cory Maye always smiles. Bob Evans, his attorney, thinks it may have rubbed the jury the wrong way during his trial. Evans says even on the day he was sentenced to death, he was smiling. But just moments after learning he’d soon be free this morning, Cory Maye wasn’t smiling. His eyes were dropping tears.

I asked him what he was thinking. He started to answer, but couldn’t. So, Evans, Maye, attorney Ben Vernia and I sat for a few moments in silence. Evans then asked, “You’re thinking about Ron, aren’t you? About the Jones family?”

Maye nodded, and dropped his head into his hand.

“I can’t tell you how many times that happens,” Evans told me later. “He grieves for them.”

Until that moment, it’s an aspect of this story I don’t think I had really considered. It must be an incredible burden to know you’ve taken another man’s life, that you’ve caused a pain and sense of loss for all the people who knew and loved that person, and that for them, that pain and loss are permanent.

I’ve noted more than a few times here that Officer Ron Jones, Jr., was well-liked in this community, even among blacks, which is something that can’t be said of many white police officers in the area. Independent of how convinced Cory Maye, his family, his attorneys, or anyone else may be of his legal or moral innocence, independent of the fact that he was put in an awful predicament set in place by bad policies and bad judgment, independent of all of that, he will still always know that he killed a man, a man he respected, a man he now knows meant him no real harm the night all this happened. That’s a hell of a thing to carry around. And it isn’t something he’ll leave behind with his orange jumpsuit.

I took the photo above at the Lawrence County Jail, obviously in a lighter moment. It was a few hours after this morning’s plea. Maye had just told us he wanted to and of take his kids to Disneyland, then described the pot of gumbo his mother would be cooking for his homecoming celebration. The smile came back.

Since he wasn’t up for the video, Maye did ask me to pass along a note he wrote this morning to the people who have written him, advocated for him on the Internet, and otherwise supported him over the years.

So here’s a letter to you, from him:

I really don’t know where to start because I’ve missed out on so much in 9 1/2 years. I guess my first 3-4 weeks spent bonding with family & friends. Me and the kids will probably spend a lot of time fishing and going to the park for walks, where we can talk about about whatever comes to mind.

I know I must get a job as soon as possible. There are a few things my kids have asked for in the last few years that I haven’t been able to get them. I know they’re going to be really excited knowing I’m home, and that daddy will be there for their b-days, Christmas, and more. Maybe we’ll stay up all night watching movies, eating cookies and ice cream.

I guess I’m just ready to share all this love that I have built up inside of me all these years. No more late nights or days just wishing I can hold my kids & tell them that their daddy loves them with all his heart. I’m sure my not being physically present has affected them in many ways. I just pray that it’s not too late, and together we can work on healing one another.

I realize a lot of people are going to wonder why I accepted a plea. We just felt that regardless of the facts and evidence that pointed in my favor, there was the possibility that one or more jurors could not see it my way, causing a mistrial. That could leave me sitting here another nine months or more, or longer if it keeps repeating that way.

This is Mississippi, and some people refuse to let go of their old ways from the old days. I just didn’t want to put my family through any more heartache, and didn’t want to have to wait any longer. It was take a chance of a mistrial, or grab hold of my future and be the man/father/friend that I can be, and that my family loves and misses.

I’ll forever be grateful to all the friends and supporters that have been with me throughout all of this. I thank God daily because it’s good to know this world we live in can have many wonderful & caring people in it. I consider myself blessed to know you all are out there. I’ll forever be in your debt. Thanks a million, and may we continue to stay in touch.


Cory J. Maye

Cory Maye Will Soon Be Free

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I’m in Monticello, Mississippi, this morning, where Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell has just signed a plea agreement between Cory Maye and the state. Maye has plead guilty to a reduced charged of manslaughter, and has been resentenced to 10 years in prison, time he has already served. He’ll be sent to Rankin County for processing. He should be released and home with his family in a matter of days.

This is wonderful news. Much, much more to come.

MORE: I have a writeup now posted Huffington Post, though most of it is background. I’ll have more thorough coverage of this morning’s events, including an interview with Cory Maye, later today.

Mississippi Supreme Court Grants Cory Maye a New Trial

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Cory Maye a new trial today (PDF), though on different grounds than the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which granted the trial based on a change of venue issue. The state’s supreme court instead ruled that Maye’s trial judge should have let the jury consider a “defense of others” defense, and that the judge’s refusal to include that in the jury instructions amounted to reversible error. The court also said that Maye’s new trial can take place in Jefferson Davis County, which is what Maye wanted, and is where the incident took place.

As I understand it, this decision means Maye is virtually guaranteed a new trial next year unless there’s plea agreement between his attorneys and the state.

My 2006 Reason feature on Maye here. And here’s’s documentary about Maye’s case:

Mississippi Supreme Court To Hear Cory Maye Case

Friday, June 25th, 2010

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. Mississippicould 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 documentary on Maye, Mississippi Drug War Blues.

Good News From Mississippi

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

Over at Hit & Run, I’ve posted on new developments in both the Cory Maye case and in the ongoing Steven Hayne saga. Hold on to your hats, here, but both developments are actually positive.

Eight Years Since the Raid on Mary Street

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

One thing about my job: It tends to help you keep some perspective about your own problems.

It was eight years ago today that police in Prentiss, Mississippi broke into Cory Maye’s home on a drug warrant, putting him in the unimaginable position of having to determine if the armed men who had just kicked open his door were police or criminal intruders there to harm him and his young daughter. He’s been in prison ever since, separated from his kids and the rest of his family. He has spent about half that time on Death Row. It was also eight years ago that the family of Ron Jones needlessly lost a son and brother. Mississippi authorities put an innocent man in prison for life, let the actual target of the drug raid that night go free, and shattered two families.

Anyone think it’s the least bit more difficult to get high in Prentiss today than it was then?

There’s a flicker of light in this story, now. Maybe this time next year I’ll be able to post a photo or two of Cory and his kids enjoying their first Christmas together in nearly a decade.

Cory Maye’s New Trial

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

My crime column this week looks at last week’s Mississippi Court of Appeals ruling to rant Cory Maye a new trial. Specifically, it looks at why the issue of venue is important where Maye’s guilt or innocence rests on his credibility and the credibility of the police officers who conducted the raid on his home. The ruling essentially upheld the right to be judged by a jury of your peers.


Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

I’m quoted in this Jackson Clarion-Ledger article about yesterday’s Mississippi Court of Appeals decision in the Cory Maye case.

Video of Cory Maye’s Hearing

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

If you missed the live stream, you can now watch archived video of the oral arguments for Cory Maye’s hearing before the Mississippi Court of Appeals last month.

Check it out here.

Cory Maye’s Appeal

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

As I noted earlier, Cory Maye’s hearing before the Mississippi Court of Appeals took place earlier this afternoon.

I’m obviously biased, but I thought Maye attorneys Abe Pafford and Ben Vernia were outstanding. I don’t have a transcript in front of me, and the video isn’t archived yet, so I’m not going to do a point-by-point rundown, though you can get a pretty good idea of what transpired by reading the briefs.

The state’s attorney looked harried and unprepared, with one of the judges even jumping in at one point to mention case law favorable to her argument. The judges seemed particularly skeptical of the state’s response to Maye’s argument that he should have been permitted to move the trial back to Jefferson Davis County, where the raid took place, instead of in Lamar County, where the trial was eventually held.

Best I could tell, one judge seemed particularly favorable to Maye’s case, and one seemed particularly hostile. The third judge was harder to read. I couldn’t really see his body language through the web stream.

I guess we’ll find out in the next few months.

Oral Arguments in the Cory Maye Case Tomorrow

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

Tomorrow at 2:30pm ET, the Mississippi Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the Cory Maye case. You’ll be able to stream the arguments live from the court’s website.

To catch you up:

PDF of Maye’s appeal.

My 2006 Reason article on Maye’s story.

Archive of posts about Maye.

— documentary on Maye’s case:

Mississippi Court of Appeals to Hear Oral Arguments in Cory Maye’s Case

Monday, April 27th, 2009

According to Maye’s lawyers, this is good news, but only in the sense that it would have been really bad news if the court had declined to hear oral arguments. The arguments are scheduled for June 4. You’ll be able to watch a live webcast here.

My October 2006 Reason feature on Maye’s case here. And here’s Reason’s award-winning documentary on Maye’s story: Video on Cory Maye Wins Award

Monday, February 9th, 2009

The video Mississippi Drug War Blues: The Case of Cory Maye took top prize in the Best Documentary Short category at the Oxford Film Fest. Congratulations to Paul Feine, Roger Richards, and Dan Hayes for their hard work. And of course, props to Drew Carey for making the video possible. You can watch it below.

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.

Cory Maye vs. Sgt. Joseph Chavalia

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

A comparison of what happens to frightened citizens who shoot at threats they can’t see during a drug raid vs. what happens to frightened police officers who shoot at threats they can’t see during a drug raid.

You could substitute Ryan Frederick or Derrick Foster (among others) for Cory Maye. And you could substitute Dep. Christopher Long and a whole host of others for Chavalia.

Police who make mistakes during drug raids get suspended with pay, and ultimately vindicated. Citizens who make mistakes during drug raids go to jail.