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Report: Stiffer charges could have jailed murder suspect

Posted May 22, 2008

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— A suspect in the murders of two college students might have been in jail at the time of the killings if he had been charged with a more serious crime after a November 2007 home break-in.

A report by City Manager Patrick Baker, released Wednesday, says that the investigating officer should have charged Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr.,17, with burglary, not felonious breaking and entering, after the Nov. 7 incident.

The report "raises serious questions about the overall prosecution of this matter and in particular, the degree of communication between the Durham District Attorney's Office and the prosecuting witness and the Durham Police Department," Baker wrote.

Lovette faces first-degree murder charges in the shooting death of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato on Jan. 18, 2008, and the killing of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson on March 5. Police have not disclosed what killed Carson, though one document suggests she was shot, too.

Baker said a burglary charge would not have guaranteed Lovette would have been given an active jail sentence, but burglary is a more serious charge than felonious breaking and entering.

Mayor Bill Bell ordered Baker to review the prosecution of the home break-in after the victim sent a three-page memo to the City Council, entitled "Chronology of Errors Related to the Release of Laurence Lovette."

"The homeowner opines that had her matter against Mr. Lovette been properly prosecuted and adjudicated, Mr. Lovette would likely have been incarcerated at the time of the murder of Mr. Mahato and Ms. Carson," Baker wrote.

Between the home break-in and the slayings, Lovette was arrested four times – for the home break-in, possessing a stolen vehicle, burglary and theft, and then Carson's murder. Two of those arrests occurred within two days of each other, and three while Lovette was on probation.

Baker listed several lessons that he said could be learned from the case:

  • Investigating police officers need to ensure that the "most appropriate charges are filed in all cases."
  • Police and the district attorney's office need "to assure open and effective communication" between investigating officers and prosecutors.
  • The General Assembly should remove impediments to juvenile records being considered in adult cases.

Baker said he has been in contact with Police Chief Jose Lopez, who pledged to take corrective action on these issues.

Baker's report focused on the Durham Police Department's actions because "the role or performance of the District Attorney's office" is not under his authority. District attorneys, elected for judicial districts, are state officials.

The city manager provided a chronology of the events between the Nov. 2, 2007, home break-in and Lovette's March 13, 2008, arrest for Carson's slaying. He was charged with Mahato's slaying after he  was arrested in the Carson case.

65 Comments

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  • starrider99 May 22, 2008

    We can analyze away at all the factors that led to these murders. Sure, fix what is wrong where you can, but why not add a quick-fix solution as well? Toughen the punishment to the point that the criminals think twice before comitting the crime.
    Make an example of this criminal in such a way that it makes the next one think about it.

  • pleshy May 22, 2008

    "The homeowner opines that had her matter against Mr. Lovette been properly prosecuted and adjudicated, Mr. Lovette would likely have been incarcerated at the time of the murder of Mr. Mahato and Ms. Carson"

    Really, well, there you go. It has nothing to do with whether the facts support the more severe charges or whether a prosecution would have been successful on the more severe charges. It is based almost exclusively on the opinion of the homeowner/victim as to what he thinks the charges should have been. That's stupid. I would imagine the DA or magistrate (esp. in wake of the Duke LAX case) matched the facts most clearly provable against the elements of the crimes applicable and came up with the crime most likely supported by the available facts rather than a more sever crime that may not have been supported by the facts and ultimately dismissed altogether, putting his back on the street clear of the charge completely.

  • RonnieR May 22, 2008

    When I first started, I let magistrates do it and then I realized that some were barely functionaly literate and for the
    rest of my career did them myself. In fact, not long after I started, the state started offering a 4 week BLET and gauaranteed $6000 a year to any officer that took it. That meant $25.00 a week to me, so I got in one of the first ones.
    That is where I learned that if you want the paper work done right, do it yourself and show the magistrate where to sign.

  • Common Sense Man May 22, 2008

    "Back in the day, when I was working and drew up arrst warrants, release orders, serach warrants,etc I read and reread them before I carried them to the magistrate. I knew what was on the paper, because I wrote it."

    Unless it's changed in Durham, the magistrate enters the info and draws up the paperwork based on what the officer presents.

  • fbguru May 22, 2008

    The finger of blame is being pointed everywhere, except where it should be......at the murderer...True, ultimately he did it, but he also went through a judicial system that FAILED!!!! Bottom line. I agree with whoever said we need to dust off the "old west" style of justice. Go back to public hangings, and I GUARANTEE the crime rate will plummet. And to those liberal, pro-life (only when it's a criminal) but otherwise "pro choice" (when it's an innocent unborn child), wah, wah, wah!!! Don't watch!!! And if you come around with your candles for a candle-light vigil, you should be thrown in jail for sympathizing with the low lifes!!! Go ahead WRAL, moderate away!!!

  • Corvus May 22, 2008

    SoutherLady05 why don't you take a look at the equipment a Probation Officer is issued. It is not much.

    Community Officers get a badge, handcuffs and carrier, OC pepper spray and case, glove pouch and One-Way face mask, jacket, hat and a plastice spray bottle.

    Chiefs, Intensive, Intermediate and Surveillance Officers are issued the following: Radio (10 years out of date) or cell phone, handgun, holster, gun safety lock, ammo, gun lock box, duffle bag (with a DCC emblem, OC pepper spray and case, flashlight with charger, magazines and carriers, handcuffs and carrier, badge, gun cleaining kit (no one in Division II has one), body armor, jacket, hat, reflective vest, glove pouch and One-Way face mask, duty belt (no one in Division II has one) and a plastic spray bottle.

    We have computers in our offices but we do not have a computer in our cars, like police officers, deputies and State Troopers. The DCC is way behind on up to date technology. So, who get the blame?

  • RonnieR May 22, 2008

    In the N&O it said that the DPD investigator did not realize what she charged him with. BULL! Back in the day, when I was working and drew up arrst warrants, release orders, serach warrants,etc I read and reread them before I carried them to the magistrate. I knew what was on the paper, because I wrote it.
    I always charged the max possible unless I'd made a deal with
    the perp for GOOD information. Then if he/she (sometimes the pervert kind)kept their end, I kept mine. That way the street
    knew that I was man of my word.

  • Pac-Man May 22, 2008

    Talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.

    No one is scared when they hear a Judge/Magistrate say, "Sir, you're charged with such-and-such which holds a maximum of ____+ years in prison!"

    Every criminal knows even if the evidence is overwelmingly against them, they can just take a plead-bargan and get credit for time served or maybe as little as some community service.

    How do we solve this? Well, you need a bigger court house and quite a few more ADA's and Judges. Then you through the book at them. After a few tough years, maybe people will think twice bfore committing crime.

    This is not the "police's" fault.

    Here endeth the lesson.

  • richard2 May 22, 2008

    if a bullfrog had wings-------

  • Adelinthe May 22, 2008

    Personally, I believe when one is dumb or low enough to commit a crime, the most serious charge should be thrown at them. That way we err on the side of caution for future events rather than letting murderous thugs out on the streets to kill again.

    However, this report seems much like 20/20 hindsight to me.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

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