Thursday, February 02, 2006

Cory Maye

Cory Maye was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death under questionable circumstances. A few weeks back, as Tookie Williams went to meet his maker, people started agitating for clemency for Cory Maye. Maye's case raises tough questions about the death penalty, because there's no doubt that Maye shot a police officer dead. The officer entered Maye's home with a warrant, may or may not have announced his presence, may or may not have deserved the warrant, may or may not have planted drugs. Maye did have a licensed handgun, and did use it against a midnight intruder into the apartment he shared with his 18 month-old daughter. That he happens to be black, and the dead officer was the white son of the police chief, doesn't help things.

A group has launched A Petition for Cory Maye. The sentiment seems sound:
The law has been misapplied to Cory Maye. If an unidentified intruder were to burst into our home in the middle of the night, we would be within our rights to defend ourselves and our children. Given the law of Mississippi, Cory Maye acted within his right on the night of December 26th, 2001. It is a great tragedy that a police officer lost his life in this encounter. The execution of Cory Maye would magnify the tragedy, killing an innocent citizen because of the death of an officer. Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, should grant an unconditional pardon to Cory Maye.
I'm not sure "innocent" is the right word. He shot a man. But he's not the sort of monstrous murderer who deserves nothing short of death. The facts of the case are convoluted, but if we give the police all the benefit of the doubt, there was no reason for them to be in Maye's apartment, nor to be entering it in paramilitary outfits in the middle of the night. Maye probably acted in self-defense, and even if he couldn't get acquitted on self-defense in a fair trial, he simply isn't the sort of person the death penalty is meant for.

There was an interesting discussion in the aftermath of my last post on Maye and Tookie about who, if anyone, would clearly fall into that category. Even Jeffrey Dahmer agreed to help criminologists and psychologists study him to help them understand the nature of his actions. I'd rather keep bin Laden in a jail cell as a trophy than make him into a martyr. And there's good evidence that Tim McVeigh could have told us about his co-conspirators if the death penalty were off the table.

Sign the petition.