Judge allows Eve Carson evidence in Lovette murder trial
Posted July 23, 2014
Updated July 24, 2014
Durham, N.C. — A Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that jurors in Laurence Lovette's murder trial could hear from a key state witness, despite arguments from defense attorneys that the information offers very little value in identifying their client as Abhijit Mahato's murderer and that the testimony unfairly damages his right to a fair trial.
"The prejudicial effect is enormous," attorney Kevin Bradley told Judge Jim Hardin during a hearing to keep out of trial evidence about the 2008 robbery and murder of Eve Carson, who was killed two months after Mahato was found dead in his apartment near Duke University.
But prosecutors said the evidence – as well as testimony about another shooting and the theft of a Mercedes – helps shows that Lovette had the opportunity, preparation, intent and knowledge to commit the crime and that the testimony of their witness – Shanita Love – helps tie all the evidence together and to link Lovette to it.
"It is clear, it is relevant. It is necessary, and the probative value does not substantially outweigh the danger of prejudice," Durham County Assistant District Attorney Storm Ellis told Hardin.
Hardin agreed, ruling jurors could hear all the evidence.
Lovette, 23, was arrested in Mahato's Jan. 18, 2008, death on March 13, 2008, eight days after Carson was robbed and killed in a similar manner.
Both victims were college students – Mahato an engineering graduate student at Duke and Carson a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – both were kidnapped from their homes, both were taken to ATMs to withdraw hundreds of dollars and both were shot – Mahato once to the head and Carson five times.
Lovette and Demario Atwater, who is Love’s ex-boyfriend, are both serving life in prison for Carson’s murder
Love testified Tuesday during a hearing outside the jury's presence and again before the jury Wednesday that Lovette admitted to Mahato's death, but defense attorneys say she's not credible because she first told investigators she knew nothing about crime.
Love is the only person linking Lovette to the stolen Mercedes, which she says he was driving at the time of Mahato's death, and the Jan. 19, 2008, shooting of a Hispanic man. In that shooting, a 9 mm shell casing was fired from the same gun as the shell casing in Mahato's death.
The gun was never recovered. According to Love, Lovette said someone stole it from him.
Atwater's half-sister, Tikoya Maybrey, also made a statement to Durham investigators six years ago that she saw Lovette driving a silver Mercedes after Mahato's death.
After being arrested for not showing up to testify Monday, she took the witness stand Wednesday but was treated as a hostile witness by prosecutors after insisting for more than an hour that she could not recall basic information from 2008, including where she lived and testifying before a federal grand jury in the Carson case.
"You don't remember going before a federal grand jury and testifying?" Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried asked.
"No, I don't," she responded.
"So, you don't have any recollection at all about going to Greensboro to go before the federal grand jury?" asked Dornfried.
"And when was this again?" Maybrey asked.
"In 2008," he replied.
"I don't remember," she said.
Ultimately, Maybrey admitted to signing the statement in which she also said Lovette told her he had killed somebody but then remarked, "Psych, I'm just playing."
"He was kind of laughing but still seemed real nervous," Dornfried read from the document.
But on cross-examination, Maybrey – who said the death of an older brother killed in November of that year adversely affected her memory – said Lovette never made any admissions to her about Mahato's death.