PolySciFi Blog

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Corey Maye and the High Cost of Deterrence

I'm not going to shed tears for Tookie Williams one way or the other, but since we've been talking about the death penalty here recently, this story caught my eye:

So imagine it's around midnight and you're sound asleep with your eighteen-month-old daughter. You're woken by someone dressed in black paramilitary gear kicking down your door. This isn't in Iraq, and you have no criminal record. You do have a gun, with which you attempt to defend yourself. Unfortunately, you're a good shot, and the man you shoot is a police officer; worse, the son of the local police chief. Worse yet, you're black, he's white, and you both live in Prentiss, Mississippi (in Jefferson Davis County, which should give some picture of race relations there). This was Corey Maye's crime, and for it, he's currently sitting on death row. Some more relevant things about the case, before you jump to any conclusions:
The Agitator has more here, and here. I think that this case should be a rallying point for anti-gun control, anti-government intrusion libertarians; it seems to be pissing John Cole off, not to mention Glenn Reynolds, which is a good sign.

I think problems like this (dumb decisions by juries, incompetent counsel, over-aggressive prosecutors, &c., &c.) are endemic to our justice system and none are easily solved. I think as long as they're part of the problem, it doesn't make sense to allow our courts to impose the ultimate penalty, even though there are cases where I believe it is deserved. Allowing it in truly exceptional cases leads inevitably to common-place applications, which leads to mistakes that cannot be part of a just civil society. Allowing the state of Mississippi to execute Corey Maye would be one of those mistakes.

UPDATE: Here's Maye in his own words, from the Hattiesburg American:
Cory Maye, 23, said he was asleep on a chair in the living room of his Prentiss apartment as his 14-month-old daughter slept in the bedroom when he heard a loud crash at his front door. "I immediately ran to my daughter's room, got a pistol, put in a magazine and chambered a round," said Maye, who is on trial for capital murder in Marion County. "As I laid on the floor by the bed, I heard kicks at the back door. I was frightened, I thought someone was trying to break in on me and my daughter."

Maye testified that it was dark in his apartment when he heard someone breaking into the back door, which was located in the bedroom. "That's when I fired the shots," Maye said. "After I fired the shots, I heard them yell 'police! police!' Once I heard them, I put the weapon down and slid it away. I did not know they were police officers."

Update: It appears there was a separate warrant to search Maye's residence; so the officers weren't there illegally. However, there are still any number of problems with executing Maye for what happened that night; I recommend reading The Agitator on this story as it develops.


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