Local News

Attorney says client didn't shoot Duke grad student

Posted May 11, 2009

— An attorney representing one of two men charged in the slaying of a Duke University graduate student last year says his client did not shoot the victim and that witnesses who led investigators to him are now changing their stories.

That is the conclusion of a defense investigation into the Jan. 18, 2008, slaying of Abhijit Mahato, attorney Mark Edwards told a judge during a bond hearing Monday morning.

Stephen Oates Duke murder suspect in court for bond hearing

Edwards' client, Stephen Lavance Oates, 20, of 2303 Anthony Drive in Durham, faces a number of charges, including murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon, in connection with Mahato's death.

Mahato was found dead inside his Anderson Street apartment, just off Duke's campus. An autopsy found he died from a single bullet fired directly at his head.

Edwards also said Monday that he believe prosecutors are basing their case on two victims from other robbery cases who initially told investigators that Oates shot them.

"My investigator has gone out and spoken with both of those individuals, shown them pictures of Mr. Oates, and both of them are pretty adamant that he is not the person that shot them at the time," Edwards said.

Durham County District Attorney Tracey Cline said at least one of the witnesses was afraid to give a statement and that she would not be surprised if they did not tell the truth to a private investigator working for the defense.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour set Oates' bond on the charges at $10 million, at Cline's request.

Cline has indicated she won't seek the death penalty in the case against Oates.

Prosecutors suspect Oates and another man, Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, robbed Mahato at gunpoint and, according to court records, stole $200, a wallet, an iPod and a cell phone from him.

Police arrested Oates five days after the shooting, following a multi-county, high-speed chase.

Less than two months later, authorities arrested Lovette on a murder charge in the shooting death of another local college student, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill senior Eve Carson.

According to an arrest warrant, Mahato's cell phone helped police link Lovette to the crime when he was arrested in Carson's death.

Cline has also said in previous hearings that police found Mahato's iPod on Lovette and that investigators were not sure which suspect shot Mahato.

Mahato, originally from Tatangar, India, was studying for an engineering doctorate degree in computational mechanics at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. He was in his second year.

26 Comments

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  • adamfranklin1787 May 11, 6:53 p.m.

    Pleshy, well said.

    Defense attorneys are doing their jobs. Defending their client, within the boundaries of the laws of this country. It doesn't mean the guy will get off, it just means that the attorney has a duty to his client, just like he has a duty to any one of you people on this board who have perhaps used one for a traffic ticket, a petty drug possession charge when you were in college. Don't knock the attorney for doing his job. The state still has to prove its case. If the State's evidence is good enough, the guy will go down, as he should. If not, well, he should go free. Period.

  • thepeopleschamp May 11, 5:46 p.m.

    I'm all broke up about that man's rights.

    TWC, I was going to post something like, we should never ever prosecute another criminal case because of Duke Lacrosse, but then I read your post it was much better than mine. Great comparison.

  • pleshy May 11, 5:08 p.m.

    It is ironic to me that no one seems to like lawyers, until they need one. A defense attorneys job is two-fold, and you ALL need to remember this. First, The defense attorney must protect the rights of the accused against the power of the government to convict him, take his liberty and, if allowed by law, take life. In performing this task, the defense attorney performs his second and in my mind more importatnt task. He protects EVERY OTHER CITIZEN'S rights against the power of the government. It is easy to let the government slide by on the 5th amendment or the 6th amendent becuse you don't like the accused or you really liked the victim. What is hard to realize is every right you give away for an easy conviction, the next time it might be YOU they want. People need to wake up and realize that the government has enormous resources to use to onvict someone, if they choose to use them. Most individuals are of limited means, and therefore depend, and rightly so, on const. protections

  • vaulter May 11, 4:53 p.m.

    95% (if not higher) of the problems in this country are caused by attorneys. If they weren't so almighty fired up by their greed for a dollar, we wouldn't have so many thugs and criminals running around on the street. And if the ones coming up didn't see all this happening, they wouldn't turn into thugs and criminals. So it's a perpetual cycle, enabled by attorneys. Remember that when you pay for your children to go to law school...

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 11, 4:46 p.m.

    By the way, my children can't break the law if they are sitting at home on the couch beside me. Too many parents turn their kids loose with no idea where they are or how long they will be gone. And yes, invade your children's privacy. Until they are adults AND have a place of their own, they have no privacy in my home.

  • twc May 11, 4:46 p.m.

    "Just remember, a Grand Jury also indicted the innocent Duke Lacrosse players. Just sayin'!!
    PaulRevere"

    Oh yeah, I can see a close similarity to the Duke case. Maybe the victim this time is also making it up.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT May 11, 4:43 p.m.

    shortcake53: "The only one responsible for this young mans actions is himself, and only himself. By this point in his life he should be able to make choices for himself, and accept the consequences of whatever choices he makes. End of story."

    You can't have it both ways. If a child is responsible for his own actions, then that child should be eligible for the death penalty. But the courts say he won't be eligible for Death because of his age. Its at that point, that the parents should be eligible to serve a small prison sentence, in conjunction with their child's sentence, for not being a parent to that child. And YES, if my child commits a crime, I expect to suffer some penalty for my child's actions, as he is MY responsibility. I could have to serve jail time or deal with a massive lawsuit.

  • twc May 11, 4:43 p.m.

    wral is real protective of this alleged killer! At least with my posts.

  • shortcake53 May 11, 4:34 p.m.

    Whatever actions he took, they are his to own. No one else to blame. Along with the actions comes accountability, and his account is due.

  • PaulRevere May 11, 4:23 p.m.

    Just remember, a Grand Jury also indicted the innocent Duke Lacrosse players. Just sayin'!!

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