Paul Jacob

A man's life hangs in the balance. Whose judgment do you trust, twelve duly appointed jurors or one lone blogger?

Normally, I'd say "the jury," but in the case of Cory Maye things may not be what they seem.

Cory Maye is a 25-year-old Mississippian on death row. He was convicted of murdering a police officer during a raid on his Prentiss, Mississippi duplex apartment in 2001. He pleaded self-defense, but the jury impounded for the case in neighboring Marion County didn't buy his plea, and the judge sent him away to be executed instead.

It's not certain he will die by lethal injection, though, since he is preparing to petition for a new trial. But it is certain that officer Ron W. Jones is dead. Though the officer wore a bulletproof vest, one of the three bullets that Maye fired in the dark hit below the vest; that bullet proved fatal.

Cory Maye has expressed his sorrow at the shooting, and his respect for the officer he shot. But he does not consider himself a murderer, and he feels the injustice. "We as citizens sit back and say well this would never happen to me," Cory wrote a supporter. "But truth be told it's happened before and if we don't take a stand it's gonna continue to happen."

Maye's prospect for a second trial is not the result of his own writing, however. Had not a certain blogger picked up the story and publicized the case, Maye would lack not only a Wikipedia entry, but any hope of exoneration. The blogger's name is Radley Balko, and his blog is The Agitator — which is certainly named in the blogosphere spirit. Before Balko's blogwork, Maye was just another black man on death row.

Now he's widely believed to be something more than that: another American victim of racism and outrageous abuse of police power.

Obviously, Balko's posts on The Agitator have agitated a significant portion of the blogosphere, with bloggers from across the political spectrum coming to Maye's side in the case.


Well, it's not just because Balko's no ordinary blogger, being an employee of the Cato Institute and a columnist for Fox News and all. Mainly it's because the facts almost scream out for themselves. The case has a distinct odor.

First, there's the issue of self-defense. According to Maye's testimony, he was awakened from sleep when someone burst into his apartment by forcing open the back door. Maye fired three times when that someone entered. Then he heard screams of "Police!" and laid down his gun.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.