JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi man who was once sentenced to death for killing a police officer during a drug raid has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the case and could soon be released from prison.
Cory Maye was sentenced Friday to 10 years after pleading guilty to culpable negligence manslaughter. He was given credit for more than nine years he has already served, said his attorney Bob Evans. It's not clear exactly how long before Maye will be released. He could get credit for good behavior, but processing could take a few weeks.
Maye has always claimed that he didn't hear police announce themselves and thought they were intruders when they kicked in his door during a raid in Prentiss the day after Christmas 2001. He says he was defending himself and his young daughter when he fired three shots, one of which killed officer Ron Jones, who was the police chief's son.
The search warrant in the case had Maye's neighbor's name on it, but a confidential informant had allegedly told police there were drugs in both apartments of the duplex. Maye had no criminal record and police found only the remnants of a marijuana cigarette in his apartment, his lawyer said.
Prosecutors had argued during Maye's trials that police repeatedly announced themselves and suggested Maye peeked out the window blinds and knew they were police.
Maye was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2004. His death sentence was overturned in 2006 when a judge ruled that his attorney didn't do a good job during the sentencing phase. Maye was then re-sentenced to life without parole.
Last year, the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered a new trial after ruling that the original jury should have been allowed to consider Maye's claim of self-defense.
"We've been in negotiations with the district attorney's office for a few weeks trying to come to some conclusion in this case. We've been trying to reach a settlement in which nobody was particularly happy with it, but that everybody was willing to live with," Evans said. "We pretty much accomplished that."
District Attorney Hal Kittrell said court rulings in recent years have been favorable to Maye and "yielded some evidence that was beneficial" to him. He wouldn't elaborate.
"It was decided that it was in the best interest of the family and the state to accept the plea," Kittrell said.
Evans, Maye's lawyer, said it was a difficult decision to take the plea deal "because we felt that Cory had a viable defense."
"The bottom line on this is that Cory will be back in the free world in the not too distant future," Evans said. "And I hope that the Jones family is able to achieve some sense of closure."
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