Defense lawyers for Lovette want charges dropped

Jul. 17, 2014 @ 11:58 AM

Lawyers for a man accused of murdering a Duke University graduate student asked a judge today to throw out indictments against their client, claiming prosecutors failed to provide them timely information about a key witness's planned testimony.

The defendant, Laurence Lovette, is implicated in the 2008 robbery and slaying of Abhijit Mahato in an interview with a police officer who testified today during the motion hearing. 

Defense attorneys Karen Bethea-Shields and Kevin Bradley say in their motion that they learned only a few days ago about prosecutors' plans to call a key witness to testify about "purported admissions" to her by Lovette.

They complain of "intentional, untimely disclosure of material evidence obtained by the lead investigator."

Bethea-Shields said it wasn't until after jury selection began Monday that she got notes from a 2008 Chapel Hill police interview in which witnesses said Lovette admitted killing Mahato. Witnesses told Chapel Hill police Sgt. Celisa Lehew that Lovette and another teen killed Mahato and laughed when they saw news reports about another man's arrest in the case.

Mahato's wallet and cellphone were stolen, and his iPod was found by police when Lovette was arrested for the 2008 murder of Eve Carson, student body president at UNC Chapel Hill. Lovette is serving a life sentence without parole in that slaying.

In February 2013, prosecutors dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Stephen Lavance Oates, who was arrested five days after Mahato's death, after witnesses changed their stories. 

Durham County Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin delayed ruling on the motion until Friday, when he expects to receive a "sticky note" from an investigator about an interview related to the slaying.

Meanwhile, 12 regular jurors in the case have been approved, but three alternates remain to be chosen.