16 December 2005

One for Tom

Sometimes you just see a post that somebody else should read. I saw this post and realized I had to make sure Tom saw it.


Anonymous said...

Have you discussed the Cory Maye case? Theagitator has been discussing it at length. I was wondering what you and Tom thought about the case.

Ken Lammers said...

Yes, I've seen it. Not sure what to make of it though. I really don't care if he was dealing, or about the race angle, or if the warrant was valid or not, or if the jury didn't like his attorney (c'mon, do you really think jurors in the South are purely evil and convict without believing guilt?).

I guess what it comes down to for me is whether the police were announcing themselves. I'm pretty much a believer that knock and announces usually boil down to a tap and a whisper followed 15 seconds later with the door being bashed down while the suspect is asleep. However, you'd have to be a pretty stupid officer to fail to break down the front door and then spend some time banging on the back without yelling "Police!" at the top of your lungs. I'm not saying that they did yell it because I wasn't there and we all know dumb things happen in the heat of the moment. The problem is that we'll never know.

TWM said...


I was happy to see that you considered the possibility that the officers were yelling that they were police during the incident. I can say from 20 something years LE experience that I don't recall a single instance where we didn't scream it at the top of our lungs. Legality of the warrant aside, I find it hard to believe they just rampaged through the house without identifying themselves.

Still, this case seems a good one to review since it is a death penalty case. And I am a death penalty supporter and a cop so that is saying a lot I think.

Ken Lammers said...


I may be skeptical of an initial entry knock and announce (after all, the point of doing all this at night is to catch the occupant asleep and if the announcement wakes him the occupant might have time to get to the pistol in his night stand), but officers I've met are bright and trained enough to realize that they'd lost the element of surprise when the initial entry failed. At this point the only intelligent thing to do is start bellowing. The thing that makes me wonder is that the officer killed wasn't part of the task force. It's possible that he rabbited through the door before the task force members started to yell. However, as I stated above, we'll never know because we weren't there.

Seth Abramson said...


I've no reason to doubt you were/are an honest LE officer. There are many, many honest people in LE. I think the operative question is whether you ever worked with anyone in LE, or knew anyone in LE, or heard about anyone in LE, who did not so respect the knock-and-announce rule (or at least, did not always respect it).

I have to think you'd be hard-pressed to answer that question in the negative--though, really, there's no way for us to confirm or deny your response, in any event. Certainly, if you were to say that no officers deviate from department policy, it would conflict with my own years of experience as a criminal defense attorney, as well as most Americans' experience in their own professions: there are always folks who don't think the rules apply to them, or don't properly understand the rules, or justify in their own minds breaking the rules on occasion, or are simply not competent enough to employ whatever rules they operate under effectively and comprehensively.


TWM said...


I can only speak for myself but in all those years I never went on any search warrant where we did not knock and announce. Now, I will say that we would knock, annouce, count to three and then bust in the door, but while you might call that violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, I would call it making sure I controlled the situation by using surprise and overwhelming force. That includes yelling police/federal agent at the top of my lungs.

Notice I did not say deadly force, but overwhelming force which might not be pretty, but if done correctly insures no one gets seriously injured.

Would I rather execute a warrant without all that force? Heck yeah, I would. I wish I could just knock on the door, hand them the warrant and have them say, "Come on in officer, let's make this as painless as possible."

But since that rarely happens, officers are forced to be, well, more forceful

Again, I am not discussing the legality of the search itself. I am making the assumption that the search warrant was obtained legally and based on legitimate probable cause.

I am simply saying that you do what you have to do to stay alive -- within the law of course.

Tom McKenna said...

Frankly, Ken, it won't surprise you to find that I'm not very moved by the series of straw-men set up by Seth, the public defender who is as viscerally anti-DP as I am pro-DP. It's clearly an advocacy piece intermingled with alot of flowing language (Seth is, after all, a poet-lawyer), but short on facts.

I won't engage his arguments; they've been addressed adequately in many places, including my own blog.

I think it does little, however, to tag DP proponents as for "death" as though we worshipped Moloch... it's a cheap rhetorical device that ignores the principled reasons why DP supporters advocate careful use of the death penalty for convicted murderers. It is not death that motivates us, but justice.

It would be just as unfair for me to mischaracterize my opponent's view as "pro-criminal" or "pro-murderer." I recognize there is a legitimate ground for reasoned disagreement with my view; why can't these anti-DP afford the same consideration to my views, which, after all, are borne up by some 6,000 years of Western moral and legal reasoning and are not just the cause du jour.

Tom McKenna said...

"anti-DP folks afford the same...."

markm said...

"I can say from 20 something years LE experience that I don't recall a single instance where we didn't scream it at the top of our lungs."

I believe that, but screaming at the top of your lungs doesn't produce very intelligible speech. Add in all the other noise that could be going on at the same time (especially when your buddies are breaking into an adjacent apartment, like in this case), and that your target just woke up, and I wouldn't count on him being able to understand. If you pull middle-of-the night raids so that the target is confused and disoriented, you shouldn't be surprised if he is confused and disoriented.

What's unclear in this case is whether the cops on the scene even understood that they were breaking into a second apartment. Or rather, considering that the first officer through Mays's back door had his weapon holstered, I don't think that's unclear at all - he thought he was at the back door of the other apartment that was already secured.