Blogs > Cliopatria > An Open Letter to Governor Haley Barbour

Dec 14, 2005 9:09 am

An Open Letter to Governor Haley Barbour

I have sent this op-ed to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

Dear Governor Barbour,

At about 11:30 p.m. on 26 December 2001, the Pearl River Basin Narcotics Task Force conducted a drug raid on the duplex apartments of Jamie Smith and Cory Maye at Prentiss, Mississippi. When a significant amount of marijuana was found in Smith's apartment, he was arrested without incident, but charges of drug possession were never brought against him. At Maye's apartment, the police officers attempted entry at the front door, before forcing their entry at the rear. Asleep in a bedroom with an infant daughter, Maye was awakened, thought someone was breaking into the apartment, and picked up his gun. In rapid succession, he fired three times. A bullet hit and killed the first officer to enter the back door, Ronald Jones. When other officers shouted"Police," Maye ceased firing and surrendered to arrest.

There is no evidence that Officer Ronald Jones even knew the identity of the person who occupied Maye's apartment. He knew so little about the occupants of the apartment he broke into that Cory Maye's name did not even appear on the warrant for the raid. Maye is an African American; Ronald Jones was white. Not only was Jones white, but he was the son of the Prentiss Police Chief, who has subsequently retired. Ronald Jones was not a regular member of the narcotics task force at Prentiss, but a member of its K-9 squad. Nonetheless, he alone conducted the investigation leading to the raid, kept no records of his investigation, and its findings died with him. At the time of Maye's arrest for murder, the arresting officers found no drugs in his apartment and he had no police record at all. Only days later, on re-examining Maye's apartment did officers find traces of marijuana in it. But in January 2004, a local jury of 10 white and 2 black people convicted Cory Maye of capital murder and sentenced him to death by lethal injection. Today, he sits on Mississippi's death row.

There's every reason to believe that this is a miscarriage of justice. Clearly, there was no premeditation. Anyone who keeps a gun at home for defense purposes might find himself or herself sitting in the same place Cory Maye sits today. He seems to have been ill-served by a local attorney who threatened the jury with the judgment of God in summation, if they did not have mercy on Cory Maye. He certainly has been ill-served by a subsequent attorney from California, who has failed to file appropriate appeals.

In the last six months, celebrities and the national media drew attention to the case of Stanley"Tookie" Williams in California. A founder of the Crips youth gang,"Tookie" Williams had a career in crime before he became a kind of celebrity in his own right in his appeals to overturn his conviction of murdering four people. By contrast, Cory Maye had a spotless record. The celebrities and the national media have largely ignored his case. Just in the last week, however, citizen journalists of the blogging brigade have taken it up. On 7 December, it was brought to our attention by Radley Balko, a libertarian who blogs as The Agitator." Since then, other bloggers, black and white, conservative, liberal, and radical, have looked at this case and found a gross miscarriage of justice. A number of them, including Glenn Reynolds at the University of Tennessee and Orin Kerr of George Washington University Law School, are conservative experts in the law. We appeal to you to grant clemency in the case of Cory Maye.

Sincerely yours,

Ralph E. Luker,

For a convenient list of blogs that have responded to the appeal for Cory Maye, see BattlePanda. See also, the words of Paul Bosco, reflecting of the life of the man who killed his brother and sister-in-law:

It's not the place of the State to articulate, from the tip of a syringe, the inexplicable fear of mercy that ravages our nation, as it busily wears Christian values on its sleeve, nowhere near its unhealed heart. Nor can society make me less a victim, by peddling vengeance as that illusion," closure".

Thanks to David Corn via Andrew Ackerman at Outside Report.

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More Comments:

Aeon J. Skoble - 12/16/2005

Yes, great op-ed.
(BTW, David, L&P is already on it!)

Adam Kotsko - 12/14/2005

I am not a proponent of keeping a gun in one's home, but if there is any justification for a constitutional right for citizens to bear arms, it is precisely to be able to respond with force in the face of government oppression -- such as arbitrarily breaking into one's home in the middle of the night unannounced.

Sentencing a law-abiding citizen to death so that the state can save face is more akin to Stalinism than to what we would like to think America is about.

John H. Lederer - 12/14/2005

This seems to be onme of those rare cases where right and left seem in agreement. There has been a campaign on Maye's behalf on some right wing blogs for several weeks.

It certainly does seem if the facts are as presented, that this is a gross miscarriage of justice.

David T. Beito - 12/14/2005

I hadn't heard about this case. L and P will be blogging on it soon.