State says appeal in Eve Carson murder case is off-base

rgallagher@newsobserver.comOctober 4, 2012 

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Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., in Orange County Superior Court.

TAKAAKI IWABU — 2011 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

— Laurence Lovette’s attorney has no grounds for his appeal of Lovette’s conviction last year in the 2008 murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson, the state Attorney General’s Office argues in papers filed this week with the state Court of Appeals.

Assistant Attorney General Amy Kunstling Irene cited court decisions that she said rebutted arguments about blanks left in the indictment paperwork, the questions that prosecutors asked prospective jurors and what defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said during her argument to the jury at the end of the trial.

Lovette’s attorney, John Wiles, cites those issues in the appeal he filed in August.

Wiles argued that the defense should have been allowed to reject more jurors without having to give a reason, called a peremptory challenge. The defense used up its peremptory challenges and shifted to what are called challenges for cause. Wiles questioned the seating of three jurors over defense objections.

Wiles also contended that Bethea-Shields essentially admitted that her client was guilty in her closing arguments, but Irene told the appeals court that’s not true. She “did not make even an implicit concession of defendant’s guilt, much less a clear concession of guilt,” Irene wrote.

A jury in Orange County convicted Lovette last year of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and armed robbery in the death of Carson, who was found lying dead in a street near the UNC campus with wounds from a handgun and a shotgun blast. Another man, Demario James Atwater, 25, is serving a life sentence in federal prison for his part in the crime.

Wiles also has asked the appeals court to order Lovette be resentenced for his murder conviction because he was 17 when Carson died. Lovette was sentenced to life without parole, but since then the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a mandatory life sentence is cruel and unusual punishment for someone under 18 when a crime was committed.

Attorney General Roy Cooper’s office has asked the appeals court to hold off on deciding about the sentence issue until it rules on the other arguments that Wiles raised.

Gallagher: 919-829-4572

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