Freeing Cory Maye

Cory Maye was convicted of first degree murder for the 2001 shooting death of police officer Ron Jones in small town Mississippi. Jones’ death was the result of a botched drug raid. Police had meant to raid a neighboring home, but instead – unintentionally – kicked in the door to Maye’s dwelling.

As Huffington Post reporter Radley Balko writes:

Shortly after midnight on December 26, 2001, Maye, then 21, was drifting off to sleep in his Prentiss duplex as the television blared in the background. Hours earlier, he had put his 18-month-old-daughter to sleep. He was soon awoken by the sounds of armed men attempting to break into his home. In the confusion, he fired three bullets from the handgun he kept in his nightstand.

As he’d later testify in court, Maye realized within seconds that he’d just shot a cop. A team of police officers from the area had received a tip from an informant — later revealed to be a racist drug addict — that there was a drug dealer living in the small yellow duplex on Mary Street. It now seems clear that the police were after Jamie Smith, who lived on the other side of the duplex, not Maye or his live-in girlfriend Chenteal Longino. Neither Maye nor Longino had a criminal record. Their names weren’t on the search warrants.

Five years ago Balko made a cause out of Maye’s case, highlighting injustices in the drug war, a botched medical examination (that led to the eventually investigation of Mississippi’s coroner), and small town politics and tensions.

On Friday, Maye, who had first been on death row, pled guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, with a 10 year sentence, and credit for time served. His release is imminent.

The case highlights fundamental problems in the War on Drugs, which can pit police against citizens in military-style raids and which, over time, has eroded the important protections in the United States Constitutions for defendants and citizens.

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Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.