Radley Balko has a long and moving post about his recent trip to Mississippi where he visited the family of Cory Maye. Now, I sometimes think that Radley goes off the rails, but his work on the Cory Maye case has been exemplary. There's a lot of detail involved in the case, and while I don't claim to have followed every twist and turn, this Radley Balko Reason piece gives some background. Maye's home was raided by the cops late one evening. Awakened from his slumber, Maye ended up shooting and killing one of the police officers on the raid. He claimed he didn't know they were cops, that he was acting in self-defense, albeit mistaken self-defense. The jury rejected his claim and convicted him.
The case touches all sorts of issues involving, poverty, criminal procedures, and the use of arguably-unreliable forensic evidence. But to me the key point is this: so long as we have the "war on drugs," we are going to have cases like Maye's. It's something I touched on in my last post, talking about this California case in which a homeowner shot and killed two young men who broke into his home. In that post I argued that the fact that the homeowner shot the intruders in the back mattered not a whit because it was simply unreasonable, in that confused situation, to demand that he instantly take stock of what his intruders were doing.
By the same token, somebody who is asleep in his or her home, in an environment where a homeowner is entitled to feel safe and secure isn't in a great position to take stock of the situation when a door is broken down in hte middle of the night. People have the right to defend themselves and their homes from attack, and in America they exercise that right. Inevitably, some informants will be unreliable -- they're looking for drug dealers, after all, and most drug dealers don't hang out with schoolmarms and librarians. Inevitably, cops will write down the wrong address, or people will move out. And then, inevitably, some cops and some citizens will be killed. It's just one cost of the war on drugs. One of many.