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UNC murder suspect arraigned on federal charges

Posted December 2, 2008
Updated May 25, 2010

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— One of two men accused of killing University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges related to the case.

Demario James Atwater, 22, was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Greensboro on federal charges of carjacking resulting in death, which could allow authorities to seek a death sentence.

A trial date on the federal charges is scheduled for November 2009.

Atwater and another man, Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 18, each face state charges of first-degree murder, kidnapping and robbery in Carson's shooting death.

Chapel Hill police say the pair kidnapped Carson early on the morning of March 5 and forced her to withdraw $1,400 from ATMs before shooting her five times, including once in the head.

Police found her body on a street several blocks from the UNC campus while responding to reports of gunshots.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall announced in August that he will seek the death penalty against Atwater.

The United States Attorney General must decide before March 31 if Atwater will face the death penalty if he's convicted.

If the decision comes before President-elect Barack Obama takes office, the decision could be reviewed because of the new administration, former federal prosecutor Kieran Shanahan said.

"I do think it will not only be reviewed, but it will be reviewed very, very closely because there are deep policy implications involved any time you use the death penalty," he said.

It's still unclear if Lovette will face federal charges.

"There may be a reason, in terms of cooperation, ability to make deals, that the government is keeping its options open," Shanahan said.

Lovette is ineligible for the death penalty under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits executions of people who were under age 18 at the time of a capital crime. He turned 18 last month.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys representing the men on the state charges have asked for all tips and information that Crime Stoppers received about the case, as well as information about a program called Gang Net, which investigates gang membership.

According to search warrants released earlier this year, an anonymous call to Crime Stoppers led investigators to Lovette and Atwater.

Police decide which information from Crime Stoppers is put in the case file, which in turn is shared with defense attorneys when someone is arrested. The attorneys, however, want to see what tips police did not pursue.

A hearing on the motion was scheduled for last week but was postponed after defense attorneys received more discovery evidence in the case, Woodall said.

He is looking to reschedule the hearing after the first of the year.

The state Department of Correction reports that Atwater is being held in disciplinary segregation at an undisclosed location after being held at Central Prison in Raleigh., where he is serving a term for breaking and entering and will begin a sentence for gun possession in Februrary. Probation for both crimes was revoked after his arrest in the Carson case.


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  • mpheels Dec 3, 2008

    If you're going to argue for the death penalty, please come up with something other than "spending tax dollars to house/feed/clothe" criminals as your basis. The death penalty does not save money. It is cheaper to let a person live for 80 years in prison than to go through the full legal process of a capital trial and execution. The system we have in place to make sure innocent people are not executed costs millions of dollars per case. So if you support the death penalty, that's you opinion and you're entitled to it and free to express it here and anywhere else, but base it on fact.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    Peace at last. :)

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    Fairyland ideals again. See below

    I am thankful that you will not have a say in what happens to these boys. People like you do not need to be on the jury or in the courtroom. So your words wind up meaning nothing.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    I still maintain they both should receive life in prison with parole. I am praying that will happen. God is still in control no man. I am glad to know that. Killing them will never bring the late Ms. Eve Carson back. May she rest in peace eternally.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    Start using the death penalty less since it does no good. Advanced technology of proof is no good. OrdinaryCitizen

    I agree. :) lol

  • OrdinaryCitizen Dec 3, 2008

    Oh good, here we go with Fairyland ideals again. See below

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    believe a lawyer should have the right to decline to represent an accused person if he knows they are guilty. I know the constitution says everyone shall have legal representation. I say let them represent themselves in court, that's representation.

    You see many lawyers don't carry all this malice and anger like you. You could learn something from the lawyers as to why they do what they do. Meanwhile, you are right, criminals have a right to an attorney or one will be appointed by the court. The criminals is entitled to a fair trial. The same for you if you was to commit a crime.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    "Why invest in rehabilitating someone that can never serve society?"

    Well the criminals are not on the streets doing more crime and harming people even taking a life. Your tax dollars does more than just go to a prison.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Dec 3, 2008

    we should execute everyone CONVICTED tiblet

    I sure hope you are stead-fast and never do a crime since you are compelled to feel the way you do. One moment could have you behind prison bars. Be very careful. Do you believe Jesus will forgive you for all of your sins?

  • OrdinaryCitizen Dec 3, 2008

    "Why invest in rehabilitating someone that can never serve society?"

    Fully agree, our tax money could be used on the ones who provide the tax money.
    Also, the ones who get out of jail who were rehabilitated and then break violation obviously didn't rehab in the first place should be taken out as well. I'm sick of the tax money being wasted on wasteful people in this society. In order for society to work everyone must pitch in.