A few years ago, I was praying for the man in this picture. If you don't know who he is, just Google "Cory Maye" and you'll read about how ten years ago he was asleep on a chair in his living room, alone in the apartment with his infant daughter, when armed men burst into his home. He rushed to his daughter's room, grabbed his gun and when the intruders kicked in the door to the room he shot, killing one of them. He then found out that the intruders were police officers and was arrested, charged with murder and -- after a trial riddled with prosecutorial misconduct, ineptitude, lies, and the astonishing fact that he was not allowed to use self defense or the defense of his daughter as arguments in his defense -- was sentenced to death. The death sentence was later overturned and he was given a life sentence, which just last week was -- I am tempted to say miraculously -- turned into a manslaughter charge with a ten-year sentence, most of which he had already served. He was released nine days ago.
When I was praying for him, I pictured him being reunited with his little girl. So when I saw the picture above, I just cried. I don't mean that my prayers got Cory Maye out of prison, and I certainly don't take credit for the hard work of a few very dedicated people. But seeing this picture made me happy beyond words.
Why Cory Maye? Why wasn't I praying for all the other countless victims of police abuse in America? The hundreds of thousands imprisoned for having committed "crimes" that have harmed no one? The families of the thousands of innocent people murdered by people wearing uniforms and carrying badges? I guess because Radley Balko did such a good job of covering his story and keeping it alive for those of us who were paying attention. Yes, there are many other cases just as horrific as Cory's, and there are many many people still sitting in jail who shouldn't be. I know there's an unfathomable amount of work to be done before we can claim to have anything like a "justice" system in this country. But for me, Cory had become something of a symbol of all of this injustice. So to see him be set free, to see one of the good guys "win", felt like a huge victory.
But what's really special about him is in this video:
Here is a man who has just had ten years taken from him by a corrupt bunch of criminals. Ten years in which his children were growing up. For three of those years he was unable to even touch them. But you'd never know it to look at his face. I'm sure he endured all kinds of hardship and pain in those ten years, but he's not wearing any of it now. They didn't put a dent in his smile. I'm probably more pissed off about what happened to him than he is. And that's the real victory: That in ten years of imprisonment they didn't take away his smile. They didn't poison the goodness in him.
This man is an inspiration. Not just to those of us who oppose state violence, or who affirm the right of a father to protect his child from armed intruders whether or not they are carrying badges. He is an inspiration to anyone who has ever been hurt by another person, who has suffered personal tragedy or who carries shame or fear with them from the past. He ought to be teaching a seven-part course in enlightenment. What's special about Cory Maye is that he is free. Really, really free