Prospective jurors questioned in Lovette murder trial

Jul. 14, 2014 @ 07:18 PM

Prospective jurors in Laurence Lovette’s murder trial in the death of a Duke University graduate student were questioned Monday in Durham County Superior Court, with a strong focus on what they knew about the slaying of UNC student body president Eve Carson.

A questionnaire filled out by those who might be seated on the jury asked if they knew about the 2008 death of Carson. Lovette is serving a life sentence for fatally shooting her.

One man said he had learned about the death of the Duke student, Abhijit Mahato, from television and the Internet, but had formed no opinion about Lovette’s guilt or innocence. He said he was aware of the Carson case, but said he could serve impartially.

Earlier in the day, it was revealed in court that Lovette had rejected an earlier plea deal in the slaying of Mahato. No details were released, but Lovette decided to plead not guilty instead and go to trial.

Lovette is charged with robbery and murder in the 2008 death of 29-year-old Mahato, who was found shot to death Jan. 18 at Anderson Street Apartments off campus.

Several members of the jury pool were excused or had their service deferred after telling Judge Jim Hardin that serving would pose an undue hardship. They included a pregnant woman, a physician who treats veterans and a single grandparent raising twins alone.

One man said he was too sleepy to pay attention and wanted to go home. He lost his appeal.

“Can I come back tomorrow?” he asked. “I just want to get some sleep.”

Hardin replied: “Sir, I’m going to ask you to sit back down and come back tomorrow.”

No jurors had been seated when court adjourned for the day.

The jury selection process resumes this morning.