The Drug War Meets Self Defense

Radley Balko of TheAgitator.com has been working on a paper on no-knock raids, where the police burst into a house without warning to surprise the occupants and, presumably, leave them less able to set up a Waco-style standoff or resist the police. The problem is that frequently it leaves people, even innocent people, thinking there’s a home invasion in progress, not a search warrant being served.

One such case may very well be Cory Maye, a black man on death row, convicted by a majority white jury for killing a police officer during a nighttime raid that may or may not have been in practice, if not in policy, a no-knock raid. Details are still coming out, but I think the balance of the evidence is that Cory Maye was certainly innocent of being a drug dealer and reacted in fear by shooting someone invading the room where his daughter was, not knowing it was a police officer.

At most he should be looking at a reckless endangerment charge, if you question his use of a gun for self defense, instead of hiding and hoping nothing bad would happen. But even if the police announced themselves, it is reasonable to believe that Cory Maye was asleep and didn’t hear the announcement, only the noise. Living in a bad neighborhood, it’s not unreasonable at all to assume that an invasion is likely to be by someone intending harm.

The point is the hysteria around these no-knock raids are creating at least as many dangerous situations as they solve, in addition to hurting more innocent people than other methods. I’m sorry the officer was killed–it’s horrible to happen. But if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame the person responsible for the policy of no-knock raids, not a guy who is scheduled to be executed for trying to defend his daughter and then giving up when, according to police, they re-identified themselves.

Certainly there’s not enough certainty there to add another death to this tragedy, and whether you believe that drugs or handguns should be legal, you can recognize that this case doesn’t deserve the death penalty.

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