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Feds consider death penalty in Carson slaying

Posted September 29, 2008
Updated May 25, 2010

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— A federal committee met Monday to decide whether to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing former University of North Carolina student leader Eve Carson.

Department of Justice spokesman Erik Ablin said the Attorney General's Review Committee on Capital Cases was discussing the case. That panel considers U.S. Attorney requests to pursue death penalty cases.

Local authorities in March charged Demario James Atwater, 22, and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, with first-degree murder and kidnapping in connection with Carson's March 5 shooting death.

Police investigators believe Atwater and Lovette kidnapped Carson and forced her to withdraw $1,400 from ATMs before shooting her five times, including once in the head with a sawed-off shotgun.

Federal authorities began looking at the case in April to determine whether to file federal carjacking charges, which can carry the death sentence if prosecutors can prove the crime was committed during a homicide.

Federal charges have not been filed, and there is no timeframe for which the panel has to make a decision.

"Death penalty cases are rare (in federal cases) but not unprecedented," former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce said.

Since 1977, there have been three cases where prisoners convicted on federal charges have been executed, including Timothy McVeigh for his role in the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall has said he will seek the death penalty against Atwater – Lovette is ineligible under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling because he is under age 18 – but Orange County juries have rarely sentenced defendants to death row.

Former federal prosecutor Dan Boyce says that's why federal charges are significant.

"Local law enforcement look at all avenues to best prosecute a case," Boyce said.

The review committee, which is made up of federal prosecutors experienced in trying death penalty cases, looks at every case in which capital punishment could be considered to ensure federal laws are enforced fairly and uniformly.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law associate professor Joe Kennedy, however, questions any federal involvement in Carson's case, as well as other case.

"This is a terrible crime, but the federal government can't and shouldn't involve itself with every street crime in the country," he said. "It should focus its limited resources on matters of truly national importance, such as organized crime and terrorism."


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  • thepeopleschamp Sep 30, 2008

    One murder can be worse than another just like one speeder can be worse than another. Which is worse? The guy caught speeding doing 45 in a 35 zone or the guy doing 180mph in a 25 school zone? Both are speeding but clearly one is worse than the other. This murder is worse than others because this victim was robbed, kidnapped, and brutally murdered for no reason. She wasn't out at 4AM in a gang, she was 100% innocent and thus this murder is worse than others. If this is not a death penalty case, what level of evil does a killer have to attain for it to be a death penalty case?

  • haggis basher Sep 30, 2008

    "It matters not whether the killer is 17 or 27."

    Of course it matters! 18 is the age you are legally an adult in NC so before that you are a child and the rules are different, as they should be. Being an adult has its priviledges and, as the older killer will find out, its costs.......

  • music4him Sep 30, 2008

    I've been in a prison ministry and seen first hand how "horrible" prisoners have it. Some were playing a terrifying game of pool, some were being really tortured by sitting around smoking cigarettes and watching a football game....whew tough life. I'm sure it's not always that easy, but it's a lot easier than they deserve and it's at our expense. They sure didn't look like they were "thinking" about their crimes.
    Maybe if people were more afraid of the consequences, they would think twice before committing the crime......maybe?

  • dbcooper41 Sep 30, 2008

    what if they are innocent?

  • buco Sep 30, 2008

    SHE was such a sweet, perty white girl. They should get the death penalty

  • godshelper Sep 30, 2008

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law associate professor Joe Kennedy, mind your own business, if the feds will provide the fluid we the people will come up with a syringe! By your comment I know we wont get the death penalty out of you orange county people, GO FEDS make us proud!!

  • floseh Sep 30, 2008

    It matters not whether the killer is 17 or 27. The person killed is still dead. Justice should be served. If one gets the death penalty, the other should also.Don't feed them for the next 40 yrs. at the taxpayers expense.

    The Floseh.

  • Seeminglyopposed Sep 30, 2008

    mphills-yes she was president of the UNC body, but she was not the PRESIDENT. And as other post has stated, if one of my family members were murdered and they killers were caught or still at large and didn't get the attention that this young lady is receiving, I would go to the white house with a complaint. I am so sorry for this family, and I don't wish this on anyone, but her murder isn't any more special than the next innocent drive by shooting victim. They give less interest to innocent children struck down by violence than this gir. what is really going on here?

  • rc4nc Sep 30, 2008

    "but Orange County juries have rarely sentenced defendants to death row"

    Mayhaps they live in a different world? One which only the worst offenders deserve to live...

  • mondosinistro Sep 29, 2008

    This was NOT just another murder. Geez, do we really need to cover that all over again? This is a possible DP case as there really are aggravating factors. If they just walked up in the street and put a bullet thru her heart we wouldn't be having this discussion. This was an hour and a half of stark terror, ending in the cruelest dancing lesson there ever was, finished up with such mutilation they took a whole day to identify the body. And: I'm still not convinced she was not targeted.

    But what REALLY gets me right now is the ever-present knee-jerk reaction that Orange County will not impose the DP. You ignore a simple fact: There aren't that many Orange County murders to begin with. Show we the other cases that were even eligible--where there was an arrest, and a Murder One conviction, even a solid case for one, and any of the aggravating factors you need for a DP case. And compare fairly to other counties--# of Murder Ones vs # of DPs. WHO in OC should've been executed and wasn't?