Local News

Lovette defense fights to keep testimony from murder trial

Posted July 17
Updated July 18

— Defense attorneys for Laurence Lovette have asked a judge to dismiss the 6-year-old murder charge against their client, saying Durham prosecutors failed to provide to them information in which a witness claimed that Lovette admitted to killing Abhijit Mahato.

If Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin doesn't dismiss the case, attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said Thursday, she wants him to at least block the testimony so that it never reaches jurors' ears.

In a court document outlining her request, she said prosecutors violated rules of discovery, which essentially require each party in a case to turn over all evidence they have to the other side.

"It begs the question: What other important evidence has not yet been disclosed?" Bethea-Shields wrote.

It wasn't until after jury selection started Monday, Bethea-Shields said, that she got notes from a 2008 Chapel Hill police interview with the ex-girlfriend of a man who – along with Lovette – was arrested for killing Eve Carson, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, less than two months after Mahato's murder.

That woman told police that Lovette – 17 at the time – and another teen killed the Duke University graduate student and laughed when they saw news reports about the arrest of another man in the case.

Hardin did not make an immediate ruling on the defense's request, reserving it until Friday morning after he's able to view the police notes.

Meanwhile Thursday, attorneys continued selecting jurors in the 23-year-old Lovette's first-degree murder trial. Twelve jurors and three alternates were chosen, and Hardin set opening statements for 10 a.m. Friday morning.

Mahato, 29, of Tatangar, India, was a second-year graduate student at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering, where he was studying computational mechanics. He had hopes of returning to India to teach at the university level.

Friends found him dead inside his apartment on Anderson Street, just outside the Duke campus, on the night of Jan. 18, 2008.

According to court documents, his wallet and cellphone were stolen, as well as an iPod that police found on Lovette when he was arrested March 13, 2008, for Carson's murder eight days earlier – a crime for which he's now serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Friends of Mahato said bank statements showed two withdrawals from his savings account on the day they found his body. In Carson's case, Lovette and Demario Atwater kidnapped her and drove her to several ATMs to withdraw money before shooting her five times on a Chapel Hill street.

Prosecutors in February 2013 dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Stephen Lavance Oates, who was arrested five days after Mahato's death, because there was insufficient evidence to tie him to the crime.

Oates had maintained his innocence, saying his arrest was a case of mistaken identity, and prosecutors previously had acknowledged that Lovette told a witness he killed Mahato with someone named Phillip.

Police, however, have not made any other arrests in the case.

61 Comments

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  • 678devilish Jul 18, 12:31 p.m.

    death penalty

    He was underage. Besides if they did go to death row, they would sit there for years to come. Blance Taylor Moore is there on death row and doing well. She will most likely die of natural causes.

  • Genie v2.0 Jul 18, 11:45 a.m.

    Well hopefully in this day and age of 24/7 media thanks to the internet, even if the Judge rules (mistakenly) to exclude the fact he has a MURDER record already, that the jury will know. They would be hard pressed for ANY one, even old timers to not remember this name. Certainly all of us remember reading how they bragged about that poor girl, Eve, BEGGING for her life. Asking them to hold hands with her and pray with her. And how they shot her in various places, prolonging her death. Yea, this is ONE time i certainly hope the jury ignores the rules about reading and speaking about the trial and they google his name every day. He is trash and trash is to be taken out and burned.

  • Genie v2.0 Jul 18, 11:00 a.m.

    I believe that a police report, if I am not mistaken and unless it was sealed, is public... View More

    — Posted by lovetheheels

    Please stop quoting or assuming the law if you do not know. Especially about a particular case. I know both, the law and the case. People are lazy and the get most of their 'knowledge' from Facebook, headlines, and comment sections, so when people do what you are doing and make leaps, assumptions, or think Law and Order educated them on the legal system all kinds of fallacies run amok

  • scubagirl2 Jul 18, 10:55 a.m.

    "If Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin doesn't dismiss the case, attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said Thursday, she wants him to at least block the testimony so that it never reaches jurors' ears."

    Well I'd say that little miss karen is old enough for her wants not to hurt her. Her client is guilty!

  • jurydoc Jul 18, 9:28 a.m.

    they want these charges DISMISSED!?!?!?! Are you kidding me?

    — Posted by scubagirl2

    Relax. Really. There are PROCEDURES in court. Justice is about following procedures, not "finding the truth." When you truly understand that, you begin to understand what happens in a courtroom. We do NOT allow any and all "relevant" evidence into any trial. There are always exclusionary hearings, at least in major cases. The defense (and frequently the prosecution) wants to make sure all evidence presented was obtained legally, followed a chain of custody, etc. It is about following procedure. When procedure is followed, then justice is presumed to have been done. The law and trials are NOT truth-finding endeavors.

  • jurydoc Jul 18, 9:25 a.m.

    I believe that a police report, if I am not mistaken and unless it was sealed, is public... View More

    — Posted by lovetheheels

    This was not a police report. This was notes taken by the police during an interview. These... View More

    — Posted by jcthai

    Nope, not public record. Furthermore NC laws on discovery (i.e., the legal term for what the prosecution and sometimes defense has to turn over to the other side) is the prosecution must turn over any and all documentation they have. It used to be the prosecution was required only to turn over "potentially exculpatory evidence," but leaving it up to the prosecution to decide what documentation has exculpatory potential turned out to be a bad idea. Prosecutors withheld all sorts of things saying they didn't think it had exculpatory value. So now the rule is turn over everything, and, yes, that includes notes on napkins, scraps of paper, ANYTHING they have in their files.

  • bill0 Jul 18, 9:23 a.m.

    They shouldn't dismiss the charges. Nothing that was withheld suggests he's was innocent, so that isn't an appropriate remedy. If the defense wants a delay to examine the new info, fine.

    However, the prosecutors should be held in contempt and tossed in a jail cell for as long as the trial is delayed. This is a pattern of behavior in the Durham prosecutors office, not a 1 time mistake. Maybe a few weeks in jail is what it is going to take for these lawyers to learn they aren't above the law.

  • Life-goes-on. Jul 18, 9:13 a.m.

    Society is not going to fix this young man. He will be a danger to himself and others for the rest of his life.. So sad for the families of his victims and his owne family as well.

  • scubagirl2 Jul 17, 6:08 p.m.

    they want these charges DISMISSED!?!?!?! Are you kidding me?

  • jcthai Jul 17, 4:43 p.m.

    I believe that a police report, if I am not mistaken and unless it was sealed, is public... View More

    — Posted by lovetheheels

    This was not a police report. This was notes taken by the police during an interview. These most definitely are NOT public record, and it was up to the prosecution to them over to the defense unless they can show some reason why they should not have.

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