Though it was upheld in N.C. Superior Court in June, Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr.’s sentence will be reconsidered by the N.C. Court of Appeals. Lovette is one of the men convicted in former UNC Student Body President Eve Carson’s 2008 murder.
Lovette is currently serving life in prison without possibility of parole after he was convicted in December 2011 for first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and felony larceny in connection with Carson’s death.
After an oral argument by his lawyer Keat Wiles before the N.C. Court of Appeals on Feb. 6, he could receive a new sentence with the possibility of parole in 25 years.
Carson was shot in the early morning of Mar. 8, 2008, after being kidnapped near her home on Friendly Lane in Chapel Hill by Lovette and his friend Demario James Atwater. Atwater pled guilty to first-degree murder in 2010 and is serving life in prison.
After abducting Carson in her own Toyota Highlander around 3:40 a.m., Lovette and Atwater drove Carson around to various ATMs, withdrawing a total of $1,400 from her accounts. The two then took her to a wooded area and shot her five times.
Wiles said Lovette deserves the lesser sentence because of a due process violation during his trial.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that life in prison without possibility of parole for a person who was under 18 at the time of the crime constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.
In February 2013, the N.C. Court of Appeals ordered that Lovette, 17 at the time of Carson’s murder, be resentenced in accord with the ruling. His original life sentence was upheld last June by N.C. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour.
Wiles said because of the Supreme Court decision, Lovette was not originally given proper notice of the conditions of his case and an opportunity to be heard, which are both necessary for due process.
“The problem is that the law changed while his case was going on,” Wiles said.
“His sentencing wasn’t fair because he didn’t get a trial that would’ve allowed him to take advantage of the new sentencing scheme.”
He said Lovette and his lawyers might have made different trial decisions had they known the ruling would take place.
“That failure of notice represents a failure of due process,” Wiles said.
Dick Ellis, the marshal of the N.C. Court of Appeals, said on average the court takes 90 days to make this kind of decision. Decisions are posted to the court’s website on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
James Markham, a UNC public law professor in the School of Government, said there is not much case law to which this appeal can be compared.
“Given that he’s one of the first people to whom this law has applied, it’s not surprising that there would be some challenge to explore what the new law means,” Markham said.
“He might have cooperated differently if he knew the lay of the land was changing like that.”
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