12 jurors selected for Lovette trial
All 12 regular jurors have seen selected to serve on the trial of a man accused of murdering a Duke University graduate student.
The 10 women and two men were approved Wednesday in Durham County Superior Court, but a snag at the end of the day created an unexpected turn of events.
One juror who had already been approved to serve told a bailiff she wanted to repeat earlier concerns about how jury duty might interfere with a business trip. The trip, planned for months, involves people coming from other countries who have already arranged for visas, she said.
Judge Jim Hardin allowed her to return to the courtroom and answer follow-up questions from Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried and defense lawyer Karen Bethea-Shields, who used a peremptory challenge to dismiss her. That left a vacancy that was filled by an alternate juror who had been approved earlier in the afternoon, leaving three alternates to be picked when court resumes today.
Alternate jurors listen to testimony, but participate in deliberations only if a regular juror becomes unable to.
Earlier in the day, defense attorneys rejected several prospective jurors, including an unemployed man who said he would find it hard to give the trial his full attention if he got a job offer. He said he was laid off 107 days ago and needs to get back to work.
Bethea-Shields asked if his situation would make him want to rush through the trial.
“If I had a job offer on the table, I would want to come to a decision sooner than later,” he said.
The defendant, Laurence Lovette Jr., is charged with murder in the 2008 robbery and fatal shooting of 29-year-old Abhijit Mahato, who was found dead Jan. 18 at Anderson Street Apartments, where he lived. Mahato, originally from India, was studying engineering at Duke.
Lovette is serving a life sentence for the 2008 shooting death of Eve Carson, student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Several prospective jurors have been dismissed this week after saying they couldn’t be impartial because of Lovette’s involvement in killing Carson.
Prosecuting attorneys said they might call as many as 105 witnesses during the trial, which is expected to last at least into August.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Lovette would draw a sentence of life in prison, possibly without parole - essentially duplicating his current sentence in the Carson murder. He is not eligible for the death penalty because he was 17 when the crime he is charged with happened.
Lovette rejected a plea deal offered by the Durham County District Attorney’s Office and opted for a trial. Details of the offer were not publicly disclosed.