The state Court of Appeals on Tuesday rebuffed Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr.’s second attempt to avoid a sentence of life without parole for killing Eve Carson, the UNC student body president, in 2008.
Lovette had been sentenced once after being convicted in December 2011, but the Court of Appeals granted him a new sentencing hearing because state law had changed.
Lovette was 17 at the time he and Demario Atwater shot Carson to death early one morning on a quiet Chapel Hill street near the University of North Carolina campus after being driven around in her own Toyota Highlander.
After the second hearing in Superior Court in Orange County, Lovette was sentenced again last June 3 to life without parole, and the appeals court confirmed Tuesday that was the right decision.
“The trial court’s findings fully support its conclusion, and this argument is overruled,” the three-judge appeals panel stated.
Lovette’s attorney, John Keating Wiles, had argued in the most recent appeal that Lovette’s defense would have been different during his trial if he had known the law would change.
In the decision issued Tuesday, Judge Donna Stroud wrote that Lovette’s “arguments are based upon a series of speculations and assumptions about potential trial strategies and hindsight, which is reputed to be 20/20, although in this instance even hindsight is a bit blurry since there are so many unknowns.”
The appeal asked that the court in Orange County be instructed to change Lovette’s sentence to life with a chance for parole after 25 years.
That is what state law, which was changed in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, now requires for anyone under 18 who is convicted of what is known as felony murder – killing someone in the process of or in order to commit a different felony, such as robbery.
In Lovette’s trial, however, the jury found him guilty of both felony murder and first-degree murder with “malice, premeditation, and deliberation,” the appeals court noted.
That second finding brings life without parole regardless of age.
Lovette’s argument this time was partly that his defense would have been an attempt to sway the jury away from finding the crime was premeditated, if he had known the law would change and might give him a shot at parole.