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Lynchburg Lawyer Frees Man from Death Row

Abram Pafford

Reporter: Mark Kelly l Videographer: Sally Delta

Lynchburg, VA - Lawyers call it an extraordinarily rare legal event. A man charged with capital murder, tried in 2003, and sentenced to death is now out of prison.

Cory Maye is a free man in Mississippi, but that would not have been possible without lots of work from a Lynchburg lawyer.

When Attorney Abram Pafford was working in D.C., he read about this case online in 2005. Ever since, he's worked to set Cory Maye free.

"Very few defendants who are convicted of capital murder, sentenced to death, spend time on death row, and then live to breathe free air," said Pafford.

Cory Maye is one of the few. But, it's been a long journey.

It all started in 2001. Cory Maye and his 14-month-old daughter were sound asleep when, according to Maye's lead lawyer, police - search warrant in hand and looking for drugs - kicked in his rear door.

"And as the rear door was kicked in, and someone charged in to the bedroom in the dark, he squeezed off three shots. At which point he heard them shouting 'police, police,'" said Pafford.

It was too late. Maye had shot and killed a police officer with a small handgun.

Maye said he had no idea they were police and was defending himself and his child. The state of Mississippi said Maye knew they were police and fired anyway. They threw the book at him for capital murder.

But, Attorney Abram Pafford found Maye's case.

"I'll never forget when I first read about the case," said Pafford.

Pafford saw many holes in the state's case and took it to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Maye, Pafford says, had no motive to shoot a police officer, had no criminal record, and was just defending himself and his child

"It just struck me that this was a situation where the father was trying to protect his little girl, but was sitting on death row as a result of it," said Pafford.

Not any more. Now that a Lynchburg lawyer gave a Mississippi inmate a second chance at life.

"A day or two ago, he got to see his first sunrise in five years without viewing it through prison bars," said Pafford.

Cory Maye wrapped up his case with a plea agreement. So, he's a free man, but forever a convicted criminal.

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