Cory Maye, a man who was on death row for having shot an intruder who happened to be a police officer, has bee moved off death row. I've read some of the trial and hearing transcripts of the case, and it sure seems like some prosecutors are more concerned in convictions than in justice.
At trial, Cory Maye testified that he was awakened by the sound of someone bashing at his door, went to the bedroom, got a pistol, and got down on the floor watching the doorway. When door was breached, Cory Maye feared for his life and that of his daughter, and fired three shots, one of them fatal.
The prosecution called a forensic examiner who determined that the bullet track in the decedent's body was downward at roughly a 20 degree angle. When cross-examined as to whether he knew the decedent's posture, he admitted he didn't know; when further cross-examined as to whether one could determine trajectory without knowing posture, he admitted he could not.
Nonetheless, on redirect, the prosecution asked whether--if the decedent were in standard anatomical position (I think he used the term "anatomically correct position"), the shots could have been fired from beneath. The examiner testified that under those circumstances they could not. In rebuttal argument, the prosecutor slammed Maye's credibility by saying he couldn't have been crouched on the floor as he claims and is therefore lying about everything. Never mind the preposterousness of the decedent assuming standard anatomical position (legs, back, neck, and arms straight vertical; palms forward) before being shot.
In reading through the defense's briefs and arguments, I'm amazed at how many points of varying degrees of relevance have to be covered. To be sure, there's a reason for requiring all of a side's arguments to be presented together, but the clutter it can sometimes obscure some of the more basic ones.
The prosecution's argument in the original case was clearly centered around the use of the examiner's testimony to discredit Cory Maye. The prosecution presented no other evidence that Maye could have been aware that the person breaking into his apartment was a police officer, so discrediting him was essential to their case. If it can be shown that the prosecutor himself lied when challenging Maye's credibility, that should be the end of it. The only way the jury could have convicted Maye would be by finding him not credible; by the prosecutor's own arguments, the most important evidence they should consider in making that determination is the testimony of a forensic examiner (such testimony in fact not really saying what the prosecutor claimed).
It may be awhile before the judge in this case can fully digest everything. At least one thing is clear, though: Cory Maye is off death row at least for awhile. The judge found that Cory Maye's attorney completely failed to provide effective counsel for the sentencing phase of his trial. When she announces before starting it that "It's all the same evidence" and that she really has nothing more to add, it's hard to imagine her more effectively sticking a knife in her client. Scary.
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