Feds: Second UNC murder suspect could still be charged
Posted March 16, 2010
Winston-Salem, N.C. — Federal prosecutors say proper procedure was followed in deciding whether to seek the death penalty for a man charged in connection with the slaying of UNC's former student body president.
In October, attorneys for Demario James Atwater filed a motion asking a U.S. District Court judge to strike the death penalty in his case, which is scheduled to go to trial May 3.
His attorneys claim the Department of Justice violated its internal procedures in making its decision to seek the death penalty.
But prosecutors say the procedures in place "ensure that charging of capital cases in federal court is uniformly accomplished throughout the United States."
Atwater faces a number of federal charges, including kidnapping and carjacking resulting in the March 5, 2008, shooting death of Eve Marie Carson.
He also faces the death penalty on state charges in the case, which include first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, felonious larceny and felonious possession of stolen goods.
Authorities say Atwater and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., kidnapped Carson, forced her to withdraw money from ATMs, shot her five times, including once to the head, and left her on a residential street near the UNC campus.
Lovette also faces several state charges, including first-degree murder, but he does not face federal charges.
Atwater's attorneys have also claimed that the federal government, in choosing not to charge Lovette is "acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner" in seeking the death penalty in his case.
Federal prosecutors call the concerns "misguided" and contend that Lovette is still a "viable defendant for federal prosecution." The government has until March 4, 2013, to charge him.
"The fact that he is not charged presently does not have any bearing upon whether he might be charged on a later date," the federal response says.
Unlike Atwater, Lovette is ineligible for the death penalty under a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the execution of individuals under 18 years old at the time of a capital crime.