Radley Balko has been doing the major reporting on the case. Here's the quick summary:
Let's summarize: Cops mistakenly break down the door of a sleeping man, late at night, as part of drug raid. Turns out, the man wasn't named in the warrant, and wasn't a suspect. The man, frightened for himself and his 18-month old daughter, fires at an intruder who jumps into his bedroom after the door's been kicked in. Turns out that the man, who is black, has killed the white son of the town's police chief. He's later convicted and sentenced to death by a white jury. The man has no criminal record, and police rather tellingly changed their story about drugs (rather, traces of drugs) in his possession at the time of the raid.
Read the whole post--that's barely the half of it.
Fortunately, now that the story is out there seems to be bipartisan outrage (at least in the blogosphere). Instapundit writes that the case constitutes a "total miscarriage of justice" and draws an interesting parallel to the recent scare in Miami:
In a way, this is the flipside of the Miami airport shooting. And I regard the shooting of a cop in this situation similarly: It's a tragedy, but the risk is, and should be, borne by the person who's acting unreasonably. Here, it's the cop's. When you break down people's doors and charge in unannounced, you do so at your own risk, cop or not.
"Bitter" of Bitch Girls, who characterizes herself as "normally a fan of the death penalty," says that the case is "so clearly wrong that it makes me sick to my stomach."
Publicola has a good rundown of the relevant laws. He also links to local coverage of the case, which barely glosses on the self-defense claim and doesn't feel worth mentioning at all the fact that the police were raiding the wrong house. Here's the relevant clip:
The trial for 23-year-old Cory Maye was moved from Jefferson Davis County to Columbia, Mississippi in Marion County. Maye was charged with capital murder the day after Christmas two years ago. Maye said he shot Prentiss police officer, 29-year-old Ron Jones in self defense when he burst into this [sic?] home to serve a search warrant for drug possession. Maye's girlfriend and family members said he had never been in trouble with the law and the drug charges were ridiculous. They maintained he was only defending himself.
As written here, it makes it sound like the police had a valid warrant for Maye's house, which they didn't. That obviously is a major issue that changes the tenor of the case dramatically.
I think it is indisputable that Mr. Maye's actions constitute justifiable or excusable homicide. It appears that the police did not announce their presence to Mr. Maye, and even if they did, I think that an innocent black man has legitimate reason to fear a police officer busting in his door unannounced in Mississippi. There is no way that this case should have gone to trial, at trial, there is no way he should have been convicted, and once convicted, I can only hope that he will be immediately released on appeal. But it just shows once more how easily a broken system can put an innocent man on death row.