Moral Low Ground

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Cory Maye, Once Sentenced to Death for Accidental Shooting of Home-Invading Cop, to be Released from Mississippi Prison

Prentiss, Mississippi, 2001. Just after midnight on the night after Christmas, a young man named Cory Maye was drifting off to sleep in his duplex after tucking his baby daughter in for the night. Suddenly, he was rudely awakened to the sound of armed men trying to kick down his door and invade his home. Being that he was a father, and being that his poor  Prentiss neighborhood wasn’t exactly the safest place on Earth, Maye ran into his bedroom, where his daughter Tacorriana was sleeping, and instinctively grabbed  the handgun he kept in the nightstand next to his bed. He crouched in the the dark next to baby Tacorriana, pointed the pistol at the door, and hoped the commotion outside would just go away.

It didn’t. Maye was terrified as he heard his front door being nearly knocked off its hinges, seconds later, the bedroom door was kicked open. Mayes instinctively fired three rounds into the darkness. The next thing he heard was someone screaming “Police! Police! You just shot an officer!” He dropped the gun. He knew he was fucked.

Just how fucked? Ron Jones, the cop Maye shot, turned out to be the son of Prentiss Police Chief Ron Jones Sr. Oh, and Maye is black and Jones was white. In deep-down Jefferson County, Mississippi. Jones died and Maye found himself hauled off to jail, severely beaten by police, then charged with capital murder for intentionally killing a police officer.

But why did the cops storm Maye’s home in the first place? It turns out that they’d had gotten a tip from a racist drug addict that a narcotics dealer was living in the duplex. Only trouble is, he lived in the other unit.

In any case, the jury rejected his claim of mistaken self-defense, and due largely to an incompetent legal defense  and the testimony of a prosecution “forensics expert” who wasn’t even board-certified by a recognized authority,  Maye was found guilty and sentenced to die by lethal injection.

But  the death sentence was thrown out in 2007 by Judge Michael Eubanks, who found Maye’s defense counsel to be woefully inadequate. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Then, in 2009, the Mississippi State Court of Appeals granted Maye a new trial. Things were looking up. Now it looks like he will soon be a free man. According to the Huffington Post, Mississippi Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell has signed a plea agreement in which Maye pled guilty to manslaughter. After serving ten years behind bars– and seven years after he was sentenced to death– Cory Maye will be re-united with baby Tacorriana, now eleven years old, and breathe the sweet air of freedom.

It should have never come to this, but we can at least rejoice that a wrongfully convicted man will soon be free and a great injustice has been righted. On a long enough timeline, justice has a way of being served in this country, even in the darkest corner of Mississippi.

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