Lovette re-sentencing hearing continued

Apr. 26, 2013 @ 04:50 PM

The re-sentencing hearing of Laurence Lovette Jr. scheduled Friday morning was continued after Lovette’s attorney came to court and reported a key witnesses was in another county testifying in another trial.

Lovette was convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder of UNC’s student body president, Eve Carson, in 2008. He was sentenced to life plus about 16 years in prison for her murder and associated crimes.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that a court cannot impose a mandatory life sentence for a defendant who was under the age of 18 at the time of the crime.

Many people, including Eve Carson’s brother, Andrew Carter; a juror from the trial; investigators and a UNC official had gathered in the Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough for the re-sentencing hearing that was scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m.

District Attorney Jim Woodall and Lovette’s attorneys, Karen Bethea-Shields and Kevin Bradley, disappeared into the judge’s chambers with Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour for about a half hour. When they came out, Bethea-Shields asked that the hearing be continued because of a scheduling conflict for psychologist James Hilkey, who had examined Lovette and was prepared to testify during the re-sentencing hearing.

Baddour granted the continuance and set the new court date for June 3.

At the new hearing, Lovette could still be sentenced to life in prison, but the Supreme Court ruling requires that a sentencing hearing be held before the judge decides on the punishment. During a sentencing hearing, both the prosecution and defense attorneys can call witnesses.

Often defense witnesses testify to problems the defendant had as a child or any mental conditions or illnesses that may have affected a defendant at the time of the crime.

Andrew Carson, who now lives in Boston, had driven down for the hearing. After it was continued, he said he had planned to continue driving south to visit his parents in Georgia.

Lovette was 17 when he and Demario Atwater kidnapped Carson, drove her to ATM machines to withdraw money from her account and then shot and killed her near the UNC campus.

Evidence in Lovette’s trial indicated he and Atwater were equal partners in kidnapping and killing Carson, with both of them shooting her. Atwater was 21 at the time and eligible for the death penalty. Lovette, because of his age, was not.

Federal prosecutors took Atwater's case, most likely with the intention of seeking the death penalty, but they ended up entering into an agreement with him for a guilty plea in exchange for a life sentence.

Lovette was tried and found guilty in Orange County Criminal Superior Court.

Lovette, 22, is at Lanesboro Correctional Institute in Polkton, about 40 miles southeast of Charlotte, and was brought to court for the hearing.