Published: April 25, 2013 Updated 3 hours ago
By Anne Blythe — email@example.com
HILLSBOROUGH — Laurence Alvin Lovette will go before an Orange County judge on Friday to be sentenced a second time for murdering Eve Carson, the 2008 UNC-Chapel Hill student body president.
Lovette, 22, will have a chance to call witnesses in an effort to persuade a judge that he should not have to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Prosecutors, however, will present evidence arguing Lovette should receive the same life sentence without parole handed down on Dec. 20, 2011, when a jury found him guilty of kidnapping, robbery and premeditated murder.
It was unclear what evidence Lovette plans to introduce at the hearing on Friday. Efforts to reach his attorney, Karen Bethea-Shields, on Thursday were unsuccessful.
The case was sent back for a new sentencing hearing by the state Court of Appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in another homicide case involving a teenager.
The country’s highest court ruled in June 2012 that an automatic sentence of life without possibility of parole for people who were younger than 18 when the murder occurred was “cruel and unusual punishment” and a violation of the Eighth Amendment.
Teens, as many in the juvenile justice system point out, do not have fully developed brains, causing some to be at risk for a lack of impulse control.
States were forced to change laws because of that ruling.
In North Carolina, a judge now must hold a sentencing hearing to consider mitigating factors before issuing a life sentence with no possibility for parole if the person convicted of premeditated murder was younger than 18 at the time of the crime.
Although the case ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court was nearly 13 months after Lovette’s trial, the state Court of Appeals ordered his sentencing to be heard again because the case was still on appeal and the life sentence not yet finalized.
A teen at the time
Lovette was 17 in March 2008, when prosecutors contend he and DeMario Atwater kidnapped Carson, 22, from her home early in the morning. The men forced the accomplished student leader into the backseat of her SUV, drove her to ATMs and withdrew cash from her account.
Carson’s body was found near dawn in the middle of the street in a wooded Chapel Hill neighborhood about a mile from her home and the UNC campus. She had been shot four times with a handgun and once with a shotgun. Atwater, who is serving life in prison, for murder, kidnapping, robbery and carjacking, fired the shotgun. Lovette fired the first four shots, investigators said.
Jim Woodall, the district attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, described Lovette as a “brutal murderer” from whom the public needed to be protected.
He also faces a murder charge in Durham for the 2008 homicide of Abhijit Mahato, a Duke University graduate student found dead in his Durham home several months before the Carson homicide.
Woodall urged the judge to give the harshest sentences allowed in the Carson murder.
Sentence was mandatory
At the time Judge Allen Baddour sentenced Lovette to life in prison without possibility for parole, it was mandatory in cases of first-degree murder. The judge tacked on at least 28 more years for kidnapping and robbery.
Baddour has the discretion to enter a lighter sentence, but nothing harsher.
The three-judge state Court of Appeals sent only the murder conviction back for resentencing, leaving the sentences for kidnapping and robbery in place.
Since his conviction, Lovette has been incarcerated for the most part in Lanesboro Correctional Institution, a 1,000-cell maximum security prison in Anson County.
His prison record shows two infractions – one in March 2012 for possessing drugs or alcohol or failing a drug test, and the most recent in August 2012 for possession of “an audio or video device,” which is language prison officials use to indicate a cell phone.