Almost two years after a Durham County judge sentenced Kenneth Maready to more than 50 years in prison in connection with a drunken driving death, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 last week that Maready deserves a new trial. (See “The mind of Kenneth Maready,” cover story, Nov. 7, 2007.)

Maready killed Kay Stokes in February 2005 after he fled from a traffic stop and crashed into Stokes’ pickup truck. In 2006, a jury convicted him of second-degree murder, driving while intoxicated and several other charges. It was the seventh time Maready had been convicted of drunken driving.

The appellate court ruled that sheriff’s deputies stopped Maready without reasonable suspicion in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; the deputies stopped Maready after a woman flagged them down and said Maready was driving erratically. The court also ruled that parts of Maready’s criminal historyDWI convictions that date back to 1980should have been inadmissible as evidence because the convictions were too old.

Because the court decision was not unanimous, the state can appeal the decision to the N.C. Supreme Court.

“I would be astonished if the state didn’t file a notice of appeal,” says Daniel Pollitt, Maready’s appellate defender. “But … the longer they wait, the more time they have for when their brief will be due.” It could be months before the N.C. Supreme Court hears the case, Pollitt says.

Maready, who talked with the Independent about his long history of substance abuse and mental illness, may not live that long. He is dying from hepatitis C. Pollitt wrote Maready in prison to tell him about the appellate decision, but has not yet heard back.