Jury selection begins in trial for slain Duke grad student
Posted July 14
Durham, N.C. — The man accused of robbing and killing a Duke University graduate student more than six years ago went to trial Monday with defense attorneys asking the judge to keep details of another high-profile murder case out of jury selection.
Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 23, is charged with first-degree murder in the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato, a 29-year-old engineering graduate student from Tatangar, India, who was found in his Durham apartment dead from a gunshot wound to the head.
Lovette is one of two men already serving a life sentence for the shooting death of Eve Carson, the student body president at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who was killed less than two months after Mahato.
Defense attorneys for Lovette, who rejected a plea deal in the case, have been concerned about news coverage and publicity in both cases and have unsuccessfully petitioned the court to either move the trial from Durham or bring in a jury from another part of the state.
Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin also has denied requests to keep evidence from the Carson case out of Lovette's current trial. Prosecutors say they want to demonstrate a pattern of violent behavior by Lovette.
But Hardin did agree with the defense on Monday that prosecutors shouldn't go into details about Carson's murder while questioning potential jurors so as not to cause any bias.
Those in the potential jury pool will first answer a questionnaire for attorneys to find out what they know about both cases, and they will then be questioned individually. Once 12 potential jurors have been selected, they will then be questioned again before attorneys decide who to seat on the jury.
It's unclear how long the process will take, but the trial is expected to last at least a month.
The state has a list of 104 potential witnesses while the defense has 15 people on its potential witness list. Lovette's attorneys won't say if they plan to call him to testify.