Local News

Duke student's accused killer wants trial moved from Durham

Posted October 11, 2013
Updated October 12, 2013

— It will be at least December before a Superior Court judge decides whether the first-degree murder trial of a man accused of killing a Duke University graduate student should be moved out of Durham County.

Defense attorneys for Laurence Lovette, accused in the January 2008 shooting death of Abhijit Mahato, told Judge Jim Hardin during a pre-trial hearing Friday that extensive news coverage of the case would make it impossible for their client to get a fair and impartial trial from a local jury pool.

Attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said Lovette’s name has been referenced in more than 1,200 newspaper articles in Durham, Orange and Wake counties and numerous television and online news reports about both the Mahato case and Lovette’s 2011 conviction in the slaying of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Eve Carson.

“It is true, just because there is a lot of coverage, that is not enough for the court to grant a change of venue. Many of the things said about the specific case we are going to be trying are not factual,” Bethea-Shields said. “The publicity and the effect that it has on people’s opinions about Laurence Lovette is very important.”

She pointed to a recent survey in which none of the respondents indicated that they believed Lovette was not involved in the crime.

“It’s something that should give the court concern that this defendant’s constitutional rights might not be protected,” Bethea-Shields said.

But Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried argued that the survey failed to ask if those polled could put aside their pre-trial opinions and render a decision based on evidence presented at trial.

Judge James E. Hardin said he would likely rule on the motion the week of Dec. 16, when he will also address other matters in the case and possibly set a trial date.

In addition to moving the trial out of Durham County, Hardin will also consider the defense’s request to bring in a jury from either Wilmington or Elizabeth City.

Lovette is already is serving life in prison for Carson’s March 5, 2008, death. His arrest in that case led authorities to charge him in Mahato’s death.

The 29-year-old engineering student from Tatangar, India, was found dead inside his apartment off Duke’s campus on Jan. 18, 2008. An autopsy found he died from a single gunshot wound that was fired at point-blank range to his forehead as a pillow was held tightly to his face.

If convicted in Mahato’s death, Lovette could also face a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in the case, because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the punishment for anyone convicted of a crime committed while they were under the age of 18.

Lovette was 16 at the time of Mahato’s death.

79 Comments

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  • dougbogard Oct 14, 9:14 a.m.

    A convicted murderer, worried about a fair trial. what about those who will never breathe again. I really don't care about what he wants. I had hoped he would be in line to be executed.
    Instead I get to pay taxes to make sure this clown eats and has his constitutional rights. What a waste of time and money. Society is better without him. This one should be made an example. Make his life end. It will show others on that path that they can not do anything to anyone they want. His death may save others. His death will show society that law rules the land.

  • Paidforalittlewhile Oct 14, 8:29 a.m.

    Fair trial...wow, cannot get a fair trial... wow... po' baby he can't get no fair trial. Okay. Give him a fair trial somewhere else and then let that teller photo of him using her card speak for itself....then when the jury yells GUILTY we can all say he got a fair trial. No appeals.

  • westernwake1 Oct 11, 7:21 p.m.

    It is a shame that Lovette cannot get the death penalty because he was a minor when he committed these murders.

  • flipper59 Oct 11, 7:18 p.m.

    animal

  • ohheels1 Oct 11, 5:52 p.m.

    Oh go cry river to someone who cares...the families you destroyed DON'T! nor does the general public!

  • mfarmer1 Oct 11, 5:45 p.m.

    Denied, Next.

  • sunshine1040 Oct 11, 5:43 p.m.

    Gee did they give his victims a choice of weather they wanted to live or die or where or when? He should have the same rights they did. NONE

  • Scubagirl Oct 11, 5:30 p.m.

    "just from looking at the content of most of these comments: that's the reason his attorney is grasping at straws to get it moved."

    Not ALL of us live here. Folks comment on this site from all over the country.....Just sayin. He want's it moved to Wilmington.....like THAT will help. Just keep it here, quit racking up billable hours and get it over with. I suspect it will be short, and hopefully he will get his 2nd life sentence. He deserves nothing less.

  • Chipperoo Oct 11, 5:26 p.m.

    I am sure that if Eve Carson and Abhijit Mahato could request what they wanted - it would to still be alive. I don't think criminals should be entitled to any requests!

  • wildlifeprocessing Oct 11, 5:20 p.m.

    What is taking so long. I bet the billable hours for this case are staggering. Throw him in jail with the rest of the scum!!

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