Mario Ramsey, the Durham man sentenced last year to 30 to 37 years in prison for the second-degree murder of Drew Frasure in his Chapel Hill apartment, will not have his sentenced reduced following appeal.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals published an opinion yesterday declaring that the trial judge acted within statutory guidelines while meting out the harshest penalty possible against Ramsey.
Ramsey, 30, had pleaded guilty to the Dec. 11, 2001, crime, in which he shot Frasure in the throat with a .40-caliber handgun during a struggle after a drug dispute. Ramsey then fled the apartment, located on Ashley Forest Drive. Prosecutors had determined that Ramsey arrived to Frasure's apartment to demand $50 he felt he was owed from a previous drug transaction. Ramsey also pleaded guilty to robbery with a dangerous weapon.
In his appeal, Ramsey argued that Orange County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour abused his discretion by imposing a sentence for the murder conviction in the aggravated range, despite prosecutors' stipulation to the existence of two mitigating factors — specifically that Ramsey had accepted responsibility for his actions, and that he suffered from a mental condition that reduced his culpability.
If Baddour chose to sentence Ramsey in the mitigated range, Ramsey's punishment could have been as as low as 10 to 15 years imprisonment.
But in imposing the harsher penalty, Baddour relied on two aggravated factors, namely willful probation violation, and one prior adjudication as a juvenile delinquent for a Class E felony.
In issuing the unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel, Court of Appeals Judge Linda Stephens noted that trial judges may give greater weight t to aggravating factors than to mitigating factors, provided that the decision to do so is not made arbitrarily.
During sentencing Judge Baddour said that he was not convinced that Ramsey had accepted full responsibility for his crime. Ramsey had argued that Baddour's admission showed that the judge improperly disregarded one of the mitigating factors.