Local News

Lovette acquitted in Duke grad student's shooting death

Posted July 30, 2014

— A man already serving life in prison for robbing and killing a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student was acquitted Wednesday on all counts in a similar crime involving a Duke University graduate student, leaving family and friends stunned and upset by the verdict.

The jury of 10 women and two men deliberated nearly eight hours before reaching its verdicts in the two-week trial of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 23, who was charged with first-degree murder and robbery with a firearm in the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato.

Prosecutors said Mahato was the victim of an "intentional, deliberate and premeditated murder" in which Lovette targeted the 29-year-old from Tatangar, India, robbed him of hundreds of dollars from his savings account and then shot him once in the head inside his Durham apartment.

"We are all shell-shocked," close friend Samarpan Majumder said Wednesday afternoon. "We have been hoping that some justice will ultimately come out."

"If Lovette did not kill him, who killed him?" his wife, Rinku Majumder, said. "I lost my respect in the judicial system."

Mahato's parents in India called their son's death "a diabolical crime" that left them wondering "what sins must we have committed to receive such a punishment."

"It still makes us cringe in anguish to think of the suffering of our son during his last few hours," Sitaram and Arati Mahato, said in a letter provided Wednesday to WRAL News. "What did he do to deserve such a fate – thus, is a question which keeps haunting us."

Mahato had moved to U.S. in the summer of 2006 and was in his second year of graduate studies for computational mechanics at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. He was working on tire-safety research and also preparing to take his Ph.D. qualifying exams.

"He was by nature an outgoing person and could make friends easily. His friends loved his easy going personality and found him to be very warm and affable," his parents wrote.

He loved poetry and photography and life to its fullest, and friends described him as brilliant and believed he could have someday had a big impact on the world.

"We lost a great person who would have done so much for so many people," Rinku Majumder said. "He died, and there is no justice for him now? After seven years, how can I explain this to his parents?"

Prosecutors agreed.

In closing arguments Monday, they said Lovette not only robbed Mahato of his life, but "he took from society anything Abhijit Mahato could have engineered in his future."

"(Abhijit Mahato) had a vision for his future, and he was working toward it – a career, a family down the road," Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried told jurors. "He saw a future and was trying to make it happen, but he didn't see just how that future would be stolen from him, ripped from him."

The state had tried to establish that Lovette had a habit of violent behavior, and prosecutors called more than two dozen witnesses over six days who testified about Lovette's alleged admission to the crime as well as details about the murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson less than two months after Mahato.

Lovette was convicted of Carson's death in December 2011.

But defense attorneys argued there was no solid evidence – DNA, fingerprints or eyewitnesses – linking Lovette to Mahato's death and that the state's case rested on the testimony of one woman who was not a credible witness.

Lovette's attorney, Karen Bethea-Shields, credited Wednesday's verdicts to both God and a justice system that works as it should.

"The family of Mr. Mahato, and his friends, want the persons who did this to pay for what they did to Mr. Mahato," she said. "We don't look at this as a victory – like a sporting event – because this is a person's life that was taken. We look at it as a victory, in that God has used us to prove that, in fact, he was not guilty."

Dornfried said that, although the state is disappointed, it accepts the jury's decision.

"We worked with what we were given," he said. "Obviously, the defense pointed out certain deficiencies. I would leave that to the police department to explain why those deficiencies existed."

But the investigation in Mahato's death is not over.

Last week, the district attorney's office said it is considering possible charges against Lovette's friend, Phillip Maybrey, who testified that he lied when he initially told police he was with Lovette and that he heard him shoot Mahato.

"The question is not, from my standpoint, what I believe but rather what I can prove. I know there are questions regarding Mr. Maybrey," Dornfried said. "We are still discussing this case."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Aug 5, 2014

    View quoted thread

    If you truly believe that “faith and belief in God” prevents people from committing murder, you need to get out more. :-) The Bible has *plenty* of people who have killed and been killed by God and for God (it’s even used as a teaching lesson).

    Look at the prison population by religion. We Atheists, who profess zero belief in gods, are dramatically under-represented in prison (15% of population, but < 1% of prisoners), while believers are many times more likely to be incarcerated.

    So, if you understand why people are Atheists in the first place (e.g. do the right thing because you want to not because of what a book says, treat others they way you want to be treated and actually do this), it helps you understand why we Atheists are much less likely to commit crimes in the first place.


  • 678devilish Aug 1, 2014

    Once Lovette gets back in prison, just wondering how much will he be bragging that he got away with murder. Technically he did, because the prosecutor did not do their job. They thought they had him now they see their errors. But we all know he will be locked up for life in the murder of the late Ms. Eve Carson. I am grateful just knowing he will never get out, unless is a pasteboard box.

  • Ken D. Jul 31, 2014

    I'm amazed that so many people believe that 12 citizens just like themselves agreed on a verdict that was contrary to the evidence presented. Why do they think the outcome would have been different if 12 different people were on that jury? Isn't it simply possible that the government didn't prove its case?

  • Tim Pearce Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    Acquitted..... in this case not enough proof to convict but guilty all the same.

  • LetsBeFair Jul 31, 2014

    a solid reminder that OUR SYSTEM WORKS. wake up people, you may not like Lovette, me neither, but he deserves a FAIR trial nonetheless. Justice IS blind.

  • LetsBeFair Jul 31, 2014

    the prosecution should have waited until they had enough evidence. thank the jury and move on.

  • Tony Snark Jul 31, 2014

    View quoted thread

    What evidence convinced you, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he committed the crime?

  • monami Jul 31, 2014

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    When he appeals his Eve Carson conviction, which he will, I hope the appeals court uses its brain. Otherwise, he'll be back out killing people.

  • Forthe Newssite Jul 31, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    really???? smh at your comment AGAIN today..... guess you think lovette is innocent of all wrong doing.....

  • 68_dodge_polara Jul 31, 2014

    Your kidding yourself if you think there is justice to be found in the Durham County court system. Now that said, the trial is over, as far as I'm concerned he's not guilty of THIS murder.