Prospective jurors tossed for bias in Lovette murder trial

Jul. 15, 2014 @ 07:16 PM

A judge dismissed several prospective jurors Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of murdering a Duke University graduate student after they said they couldn’t be impartial.

One man wrote a note to presiding Judge Jim Hardin saying that after thinking over the case Monday night, he realized he had formed an opinion about defendant Laurence Lovette.

Lovette was convicted in the 2008 shooting death of Eve Carson, student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“It brought back memories,” he told Hardin. “I remember discussing it with my wife and I formed an opinion about those who did it, and how horrible it was, and it makes me feel I would be biased. I could not be a fair juror.”

He was excused from service.

Other prospective jurors echoed similar feelings.

One woman said she “put two and two together” when she saw Lovette in the courtroom and remembered he had been convicted, along with another man, of killing Carson. “I formed an opinion that he’s guilty,” she said. “I don’t think I can be fair.”

She also was excused.

One man was dismissed after saying of Lovette and his co-defendant in the Carson slaying, Demario Atwater: “I thought they were guilty then and I still think they’re guilty.”

But others questioned Tuesday in Durham County Superior Court said they could weigh the evidence impartially and give Lovette a fair trial. No jurors have yet been approved by the defense and prosecution.

Lovette is charged with murder in the 2008 shooting death of Abhijit Mahato, a Duke graduate engineering student. He was killed at Anderson Street Apartments off campus after being robbed, police said.

Lovette is serving a life sentence in Carson’s death.

Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried told prospective jurors that up to 105 witnesses could be called to testify.

Dornfried told them there are two kinds of evidence - direct and circumstantial - and asked if any prospective jurors would have a problem considering circumstantial evidence. No one said they would.

Jury selection is expected to continue today.