Thursday, December 15, 2005

More on Maye

I mentioned Maye the other day as a great anti-death penalty example, but even more than that his situation and the circumstances surrounding what happened to him speaks to a lot of issues: racism, the war on drugs, and aggressive search warrants. Obsidian Wings takes the issue on in depth and what the implications of it are, but there's so much more to discuss. Maye essentially shot police officers who raided his house. The thing is, he wasn't a criminal. The search warrant had a mistake, so the police tore into the wrong man's house, not to mention without giving any warning, and thus it happened. Here's a bit from Obsidian Wings that really condenses it all very well:

The search warrants are very disturbing. They are word-for-word identical when you compare the warrant and supporting documentation for the Smith half of the duplex to the warrant and supporting documentation for the Maye half of the duplex. (Also note that Maye is not named as the resident for his half of the duplex). The underlying facts sheet suggests that the apartment holds large quantities of illegal drugs. Those were found in the Smith half of the duplex. They were not found in the Maye half. The informant (whose identity and any check on his reliability is annoyingly lost with Jones' death) makes no distinction between high volume traffic at one half of the duplex or the other nor does he make any distinction between the two apartments when identifying the stash of drugs. It isn't reasonable to fail to distinguish between apartments. As a policy matter it isn't sufficient to note that a drug dealer is in an apartment building and then get a search warrant for every apartment. Having an informant tell you that a drug dealer is in an apartment building ought to trigger an investigation into which apartment the drug dealer is in--and then a warrant can issue for that apartment. This is especially true if you are going to be engaging in a late-night raid.


This particular case highlights more on why I think the sneak and peek provisions of the Patriot Act are so problematic. With the Patriot Act secret judges whose names are never put on record have the ability to secretly create secret warrants executed against people who would never know. If a mistake this colossal and tragic could be made here, why not under the Patriot Act? And, as the new moves to add methamphetamine combating provisiong to the Patriot Act show, the war on drugs and the war on terror and all the problems they cause for civil liberties are becoming increasingly conflated. Putting all these aggressive warrants in hiding where no one, even those they are executed against, can ever know about them or the searches conducted about them destroys accountability. And without accountability, mistakes like this are bound to happen, and bound to have deadly consequences.