Local News

Suspect in Duke student's death sees bond reduced again

Posted March 14, 2011

— Judge Orlando Hudson reduced the bond Monday for a man linked to the murder of a Duke University graduate student in 2008.

Stephen Lavance Oates is charged with first-degree murder for the Jan. 18, 2008, death of Abhijit Mahato. Durham police arrested Oates five days after Mahato was found dead inside his apartment near Duke.

He was being held on $1.2 million bond until his trial. On Monday, Hudson reduced that amount to $400,000 after hearing arguments from Oates' attorney. It was the second bond reduction in the case. Oates was originally held on $10 million bond.

It was the latest attempt by defense attorney Mark Edwards to point the finger away from this client. He believes two other men linked to the death of UNC student body president Eve Carson in March 2008 killed Mahato.

Demario James Atwater pleaded guilty in federal court in September to Carson's death and is serving a life sentence. Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. is also charged with the crime. He has yet to be tried.

Assistant District Attorney Tracey Cline has said Mahato's cell phone was used the night of his death to call several of Lovette's friends. Ballistic evidence links Oates to the crime, Cline has said.

The nine millimeter gun used to kill Mahato matched one used in two robberies where victims were shot in the legs. Those victims identified Oates as the shooter. 

"The SBI lab was able to determine that all three shell casings had in fact been fired from the same weapon," Cline said.

Edwards said his client had used a BB gun in some robberies, but never a nine millimeter.

Stephen Oates Bond reduced for suspect in Duke student's death

He was emphatic Monday in his conviction that his client had nothing to do with Mahato's death.

”It is our belief there is no evidence that could tie Mr. Oates to Mr. Lovette," he said. "They found no items that connected him in any way to Mr. Mahato’s killing."

"I fully expect that no jury will convict Mr. Oates of any of these offenses.”

Edwards argues and Cline admits that Lovette told a witness he killed Mahato with someone named Phillip.

Oates' trial is scheduled to begin sometime this summer.


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  • gotsomesense Mar 14, 2011

    I don't know anything about the judge, and you all may be right about him being too lenient with sentencing a CONVICTED criminal, but doesn't it strike anybody else that this guy has been in jail over three years and the state has yet to present their case against him? It seems to me that if the state really had any solid evidence against him they would have already brought him to trial. He is entitled to a speedy trial and it doesn't look like he's getting one. Again, I'm not saying he's innocent cause I don't know, but between the prosecutors' track record in Durham and the admitted wrong doing of the SBI lab something about having somebody incarcerated for first degree murder for more than three years just doesn't set right with me. I don't like coddling criminals anymore than anyone does but I smell a rat with this particular case. I mean really you can't hold anyone indefinitely without a trial and they can't put on a trial without evidence, which I suspect they lack.

  • Wacky_dood Mar 14, 2011

    His attorney is thusly quoted, "Edwards said his client had used a BB gun in some robberies, but never a nine millimeter."

    So there you have it. He's an armed robber but it's ok because he uses BB guns and not 9mm.

  • luvbailey Mar 14, 2011

    Jayhurst, thanks for your comments and you have a great point. And normally I am a strict constitutionalist so I appreciate your argument. But the fathers were concerned about un-reasonable bail being used as a way of unduly incarcerating the not yet convicted. Apparently this abuse had been widespread under George III, so they said "let's have reasonable bail requirements" but failed to define what reasonable means.

    Here's the problem: these hoods in Durham especially, commit a violent crime, get arrested, get a low bail, committ a violent crime while awaiting prosecution (which takes way too long), get a low bail, committ a violent crime,,,and it goes on and on and on. It takes forever to try them, then they get probabtion again and again, each time they are arrested they get low bail, and go armed to the terror of the public again. So unless you speed up the courts, impose the stiffest sentenances, build more prisons, then I don't know how you protect the public.

  • GWALLY Mar 14, 2011

    ..so there you have it...liberal/entitlement justice....non productive members of society killing productive members of society and being represented by activist judges...yes folks, who you elect IS IMPORTANT and DOES have consequences..!!!!

  • jayhurst Mar 14, 2011

    "Hudson has publicy said he is more concerned about the constituional rights of accused violent criminals (including repeat offenders) than the right of the public to be protected."

    That is what the Forefathers intended with the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, full stop. And We the People have exactly the same number and kinds of rights that accused criminals have, not one less. Remove a right from the criminals, and one similarly abandons ones own right to the very same protection.

    That is the opposite of the Forefathers original intent.

  • brwneyez70 Mar 14, 2011

    So this judge is really that jacked up? I've never heard of him but I haven't read a positive comment yet. He needs to be removed if he is really that bad.

  • are you kidding me Mar 14, 2011

    these county prosecutors continue to get it wrong. given all the time it takes to bring someone to trial, you would think that they had it right, but nooooooooooo!

    And please spare no expense doing it.

    whoever is serving right should be gone...everyone of them...we need a new batch!!!

  • Trixie Mar 14, 2011

    How much is one bullet?

  • mustangyts Mar 14, 2011

    Can this judge be voted out??

  • luvbailey Mar 14, 2011

    Remember the case from a few years ago involving a woman in Durham who was missing? I think her last name was Sutphin and she disappeard one night after symphony practice? Her husband was the prime - make that only - suspect in the case but the cops couldn't quite nail him immediatley. They arrested him on stealing from his missing wife's bank accounts and set a bail high enough to keep him while they worked on the evidence - including finding her body. Hudson kept reducing the guy's bail because he couldn't post - he was penniless. Hudson eventually reduced it -0- so the guy could get out. Which he did. The police finally found the body (Falls Lake I think?) and fortunately the bum was still in town so they got him again.

    Hudson has publicy said he is more concerned about the constituional rights of accused violent criminals (including repeat offenders) than the right of the public to be protected. And that is why Durham is filled with violent crime.