Local News

Driver in fatal DWI wreck to get new trial

Posted July 7, 2010 12:11 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2010 6:48 p.m. EDT

— A man with a history of DWI convictions deserves a new trial stemming from a drunken-driving wreck more than five years ago that killed a Durham grandmother, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The appellate judges ruled that Kenneth Wayne Maready had ineffective counsel and might not have understood his defense attorney's trial strategy.

Maready was fleeing a traffic stop when he hit and killed 61-year-old Kay Stokes on Feb. 13, 2005, and injured her 5-year-old granddaughter.

Police said his blood-alcohol level was more than three times the allowable level, and at the time, he had a revoked license and six drunken-driving convictions on his record.

Fourteen months later, Maready was sentenced to 50 to 62 years in prison on a number of convictions, including second-degree murder and two misdemeanor counts of assault with a deadly weapon.

"I don't feel like I have any rights," Stokes' daughter, Marcy Henley, said Wednesday. "He gets the right to have another trial, and my momma is 6 feet under the ground?"

Henley said the court's decision leaves her feeling cheated by the system.

"Now, it looks like Maready has found a loophole," she said.

In his appeal, Maready contended that his counsel's assistance was ineffective and that he should be granted a new trial on the murder and assault charges.

His defense attorneys never contested the assault charges, and they said that Maready took responsibility for Stokes' death, even though he never pleaded guilty.

The appeals court and the North Carolina Supreme Court have previously ruled on other aspects of Maready’s appeal.

In January 2008, appellate judges found that the initial traffic stop was unlawful, that some of Maready's convictions were too old to have been considered as evidence in the trial and that the trial judge gave improper instructions to jurors.

The Supreme Court overturned that decision in December 2008, saying there was enough evidence to support deputies' attempt to pull over Maready.

Justices split on whether older DWI convictions should have been allowed and whether the judge's instructions were proper.

They sent the case back to the appeals court to address other claims of judicial error that weren't previously addressed.

The North Carolina Attorney General's Office said prosecutors haven't decided whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

If there is no appeal, a new trial will happen in Durham County, possibly later this year, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts said.

Henley said she is tired of years of appeals.

"I'm just sick of it, so sick of it," she said.