Eve Carson killer, Laurence Lovette Jr. to be resentenced

I would call myself a  liberal on social issues, a fiscal conservative and – given my past experience – probably a conservative regarding criminal justice: and I say, everybody relax. Laurence Lovette Jr. will receive an appropriate sentence for the crimes he committed:

Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Laurence Lovette Jr., one of two men convicted in the death of former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson, will be resentenced because his sentence of life without parole was too harsh for someone under 18 at the time of the crime.

Lovette, 22, was sentenced Dec. 20, 2011, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree armed robbery in the 2008 shooting death of Carson.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeals cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision after Lovette’s conviction in which the court held that a mandatory sentence of life without parole for a minor at the time of a crime violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The resulting change of law in North Carolina applies retroactively to Lovette’s case, the Court of Appeals said Tuesday.

A date for Lovette’s resentencing has not been set, but Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall it could happen within the next three months.

Woodall said the Appeals Court’s decision was not unexpected and that he was pleased with its findings that Lovette received a fair trial.

Lovette could still face a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, Woodall said. He could also face life with the possibility of parole.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour also sentenced Lovette to 100-129 months in prison on the kidnapping charge and 77-102 months on the robbery charge – sentences which were to run consecutive to the life prison term.

During closing arguments of Lovette’s trial, prosecutors said Carson endured a nearly two-hour ordeal in which Lovette, who was 17 at the time, and Demario Atwater kidnapped her from her home and drove her in her SUV to two ATMs, where Lovette withdrew $700 from her bank account.

The pair then drove Carson to a neighborhood near UNC’s campus, shot her five times and left her body in the street.

Surveillance video from a sorority house put Lovette and Atwater about a block away from Carson’s home minutes before she was abducted. Security images from an ATM showed Lovette withdrawing money while Atwater held Carson hostage in the back seat, and Lovette made statements to friends that implicated him in the crime.

“This was so senseless,” Woodall told reporters after the verdict. “I’ve heard and read about crimes that were brutal and meaningless, and there’s never been one more brutal and meaningless than this crime.”

Atwater, 26, who is serving two life prison terms, avoided the death penalty by pleading guilty to state and federal charges in the case.

Unlike Atwater, Lovette was ineligible for the death penalty under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the execution of individuals under 18 years old at the time of a capital crime.

Lovette is also charged in the Jan. 18, 2008, shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato, a mechanical engineering student from India, who was found dead inside his Durham apartment,

According to an arrest warrant, Mahato’s cell phone helped Durham police link Lovette to the crime when he was arrested on March 13, 2008, in Carson’s death.

Lovette has not gone to trial in Mahato’s death. A status hearing is set for Feb. 18 in Durham County Superior Court.

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