Comment and analysis on all things Charlotte

Tick, Tick, Tick

It’s going on two and a half years now since Tyler Stasko, who was 20, and grandmother Carlene Atkinson, who was 44 at the time, decided it would be a smashing idea to rev their cars and drag race at speeds over 100 mph down York Road/Highway 49 on April 4, 2009.

In the process, they are accused of causing a wreck that killed three people. Cynthia Furr, 45, was on the way to church with her two-year-old daughter Mackie Price. Both were killed, along with Hunter Holt, 13, a passenger in Stasko’s car. Witnesses at the scene say Atkinson and two other passengers got out of the car after the wreck, surveyed the scene, which included a dying but still alive two-year-old, and drove away without bothering to call police.

 

Mackie Price and Her Mom Cynthia

While Steve Price, who was Furr’s husband and Mackie’s father, struggles to put his life back together after the loss of his entire family, Stasko has been out on a mere $45,000 bond (you only have to put 10 percent down) for over two years awaiting trial.

Atkinson, who collected 19 speeding tickets in the decade proceeding the wreck, is on $900,000 bond and under house arrest, although she has been allowed to leave home for family events like her daughter’s graduation. She is barred from driving.

Because cases are backlogged, the wheels of justice in Mecklenburg County grind slowly. The district attorney’s office had planned a 2011 trial, but so far no final date is scheduled.

The good news is that there will be a trial, not a plea bargain. Both Stasko and Atkinson are each charged with three counts of second degree murder. The bad news is that second degree murder convictions carry very little actual prison time in NC, especially lower level second degree murder convictions.

At the lower end of the sentencing chart, you can do as little as three years for second degree murder. Neither of these two have prior criminal records, so to get them significant prison time, as in well over a decade, they’ll have to convict them both on all three charges AND get sentences in which they serve the time for each crime separately, a tall order in our court system.

New DA Andrew Murray and his staff have yet another opportunity here to cleanse the office of its inept reputation under former DA Peter Gilchrist and show that they can take on a high-profile case and win the whole enchilada.

The last time the office tried a high-profile case under Gilchrist, that of double cop-killer Demetrius Montgomery, they made a laughing stock of themselves before getting a lesser conviction.

But before we find out how this story ends, this case will have to hit the docket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

11 Responses to “Tick, Tick, Tick”

  • Jul
    28
    2011

    And refresh my memory, but wasn’t the drag racing enabled by the city of Charlotte not having the money to put up a stoplight at a busy intersection? Some back-and-forth with a developer over like $200K?

  • Jul
    28
    2011

    A quick glance of Mug Shots of Stasko and Atkinson compared to that of Montgomery and one assumes the DA’s office should have no problems prosecuting this case.

  • Jul
    28
    2011

    Yes, Jeff, that pretty much sums it up. Guess we should’ve asked for a rail line instead.

    Tara, Cindy was a friend and a colleague for many years. There are times when I can’t even look at a photo of the two of them without being reduced to sobbing, so I can’t even begin to imagine how this has left Steve, even beyond his words on the website.

    I had missed out on the news that Atkinson had bonded out, so I had been under the assumption that they were merely dragging this whole thing out in order to make her at least serve some significant jail time before sentencing her to time served. Given the track record so far, even under the new DA, one may safely bet that justice will not be served on this side of eternity.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    This is typical Mecklenburg Co justice. There is no justice here .
    Our new DA appears to be playing the same game as Gilchrist.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    At the risk of sounding callous, it is worth noting that while the system doesn’t work if it is subjected to polical and politically correct whims, incompetence, corruption or laziness, it also doesn’t work if we try to game it circumstantially to achieve a foreordained outcome.

    With that in mind, it is important to remember that the purpose of bail is basically to insure that an accused will appear for trial, not as punishment based on a foregone conclusion of guilt.

    I don’t know about you folks, but I don’t want my government to have the power to declare on its own the guilt or innocence of individuals and to imprison them based on that unilateral determination. I LIKE the idea that an individual’s guilt is judged, not by functionaries of government but by his fellow citizens. I LIKE the idea that government cannot presume guilt and punish a person based on that presumption, but rather must presume innocence.

    The crime is horrible. The loss suffered by the victims and their family is unjust. And we may decide that Stasko and Atkinson are the responsible parties and ought to be punished. But you ought not wish for government to have the power to make that determination and to bring the full weight of government down on those people on it’s own. The bail is high enough to insure that the pair will not likely evade judgement by their peers, and that is all it is supposed to do. It is not and should never be a backdoor method to imprison those who appear guilty but have not been afforded the protections FROM government that are enshrined in the Constitution and are fundamental to our system of justice.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    The article didn’t suggest that we shouldn’t make use of bail bonds. The point was that the system grinds so slowly that these people are free to enjoy themselves for years out on bond while the families of the victims suffer. In a case like this where the accused can still technically drive, it also puts the community at risk.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    I accept your intent to be as you state it, but the article, in contrasting the circumstances of the husband and father with that of the bailed defendants, and most particularly the adjective “mere” to describe Stasko’s 45k bail does indeed seem to suggest that bail serves or should serve a purpose other than insuring the appearance of the defendant.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    It is a common misperception that bail amounts can only serve to insure the appearance of the defendant. That is the main purpose of bail, but judges in Mecklenburg County can consider several additional factors, including the danger of the defendant to the community and the defendant’s criminal history. That is actually a written part of the court system’s operational rules. Stasko is accused of killing three people. Given that, I’d argue his bail is too low. The judge who set the bail for Atkinson considered her 19 speeding tickets and originally put the bail over $1 million, yet the two are charged with killing the same three people. The danger of the defendant to the community is considered all the time.

  • Jul
    29
    2011

    Here’s the Charlotte Observer, May 29, 2009:

    A Mecklenburg judge on Thursday set a $900,000 bond for Carlene Atkinson, a 44-year-old S.C. woman charged with three counts of murder in connection with last month’s fatal wreck on N.C. 49.
    Superior Court Judge Bob Bell set the unusually high bond after a prosecutor described the April 4 wreck that killed a mother, her baby and a teenager in a street race that might have hit speeds of 100 mph. The prosecutor also told the judge that Atkinson had been convicted 15 times of speeding.
    “I’m not concerned about her running,” the judge told the packed courtroom.
    “My concern is protection of the community. There’s no way to guarantee she won’t get back in a car again.”

  • Jul
    31
    2011

    Yes, Tara, I understand bail quite well. But do not gloss over the fact that by design, the secondary aspects of bail are not intended as punishment, but rather protection to the community when there is a high likelihood of danger, and preservation of the ability to prosecute. (The history of bail in our system involves, among other things, protecting potential witnesses.)
    It should then be obvious that two persons, charged in the same crime would not be expected to receive the same bail, since it is not about punishing them for the crime of which they are accused, but rather about motivating specific behavior on the part of the individual defendant and protecting the community from a likely threat caused by an individual.

    So long as the judge believed that Stasko’s 45k bail was sufficient to insure his appearance, and that nothing about his history indicated any secondary concerns, the system has, in regard to pre-adjudication process, worked as it should. That the victims’ family has suffered should have no impact on that. (That would be why a bail hearing doesn’t involve the concept of victim impact statements, etc.) Nor should the different circumstances of a different defendant have an impact, since again, the concept is not one of exacting justice for a single crime, but rather of dealing with motivating future behavior of two distinct individuals.

  • Jul
    31
    2011

    Tandem wrote:
    “I LIKE the idea that government cannot presume guilt and punish a person
    based on that presumption, but rather must presume innocence.”

    Pfc. Bradley Manning on line one.

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