Local News

Defense says police assaulted UNC murder suspect

Posted March 30, 2010
Updated April 12, 2010

— Defense attorneys for a man facing federal charges in the death of the UNC's former student body president claim he was beaten by Durham police during his arrest.

In court documents filed Monday, attorneys for Demario James Atwater claim arresting officers hit their client when he was voluntarily lying on the sidewalk with his hands outstretched and beaten inside a police car while he was handcuffed.

Attorneys claim that Associated Press photos taken of Atwater after his arrest show fresh abrasions on his face.

Atwater was arrested in Durham on March 12, 2008 but transported to Chapel Hill, where police found the body of Eve Marie Carson seven days earlier.

Atwater faces a number of federal charges, including kidnapping and carjacking, resulting in Carson's shooting death. His federal trial is scheduled to begin in May, and if convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

State authorities say he, as well as Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., kidnapped Carson, forced her to withdraw money from ATMs, shot her five times and left her on a residential street near the UNC campus.

Atwater's attorneys also claim that statements their client made during a three-hour police interrogation at the Chapel Hill Police Department show that he was fearful for his life.

Atwater was afraid he would be beaten or killed once the interrogation was completed or if he angered the investigating officers by invoking his right to a lawyer, attorneys claim.

Throughout the taped interview, Chapel Hill Police Department Investigator Rodney Newcomer attempts to reassure Atwater that he is safe, according to the filing. At one point, Atwater tells the officer, “I’m about to get killed.”

Attorneys are seeking to suppress any statements Atwater made outside of the interrogation room. They also say the interrogator violated state law by not taping the entire interview and that the interrogator asked Atwater questions on an unrecorded smoke break.

Chapel Hill Police Department declined to comment on Tuesday.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said no complaint has ever been filed by Atwater or his attorneys. He did not comment further.

Atwater also faces the death penalty on state charges in the case, which include first-degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, felonious larceny and felonious possession of stolen goods.

Lovette also faces several state charges, including first-degree murder, but he does not face federal charges. Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, he is ineligible for the death penalty because he was under age 18 at the time of his alleged crime.


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  • st295x98 Mar 31, 2010

    I'm surprised he even could stand, let alone walk the perp walk. I'm not sure I've ever seen someone have their shins stomped on like that and actually stand and walk :) I 'd love to hear about this parasite get out of this jam by claiming excessive force.. They'er groups of people out here that will handle this situation properly.

  • mondosinistro Mar 30, 2010

    I sure hope there isn't any substance to this complaint. I doubt there is. The police had every chance to take their time and do this right; for example, they secretly recorded a conversation he had with an acquaintance. They knew who they were after, and where he was. I agree, the fact that this complaint is only being filed now looks like grasping at straws, like the other objections that have so far been overruled.

    This is going to be an interesting trial, and I hope no one goofs it up. I've long felt that there was much more premeditation to this murder than anyone has let on, and the fact that federal charges are being pursued, and even the death penalty (a rare thing at the federal level), makes me think it even more.

    BTW the article is wrong in saying that Lovette does not face federal charges. Last I heard, those were still possible, they just haven't been pursued yet.

  • Desiderata Mar 30, 2010

    WILDCAT.....and GOD also commanded ..THOU SHALL NOT KILL....so lets not feed/shelter him..and see what nature can do for him....

  • mdbrown1021 Mar 30, 2010

    His lawyers are trying to seek sympathy for their client and of course they are only giving you one side of the story. Let's talk about the fact that their client was a gang member who sold and did drugs and who did whatever he wanted when he wanted. He does not care about any laws or regulations or for anyone else but himself. So why would he think that the public would not give him the death penalty? Which he rightfully deserves. They killed her like they were taking target practice. I hope his lawyers can come up with a better defense other than he had a horrible childhood and did not have a stable home life. No one made him join a gang and no one stuck a gun to his head and told him to go out and rob someone and kill them.

  • bowlingbrat1203 Mar 30, 2010

    Amen Kodac31! I couldn't agree more!

    These defense lawyers will create any old story they can to get these scumbags off!

  • whatusay Mar 30, 2010

    So, Mr Atwater is caught on tape with Ms Carson at at ATM where she was forced to give them "her" money, and she was found shot to death minutes later, and Mr Atwater believes his civil rights were violated because he was assaulted by police....

    Why wasn't he beaten to death while trying to escape??? That would have been my story.

  • dmccall Mar 30, 2010

    They were a lot nicer to him than I would have been.

  • hardwork919 Mar 30, 2010

    wildcat, you mentioned that murder was greater than any assault and I simply gave a retort. If that's off-topic, then blame yourself for making it off topic. LOL I just replied. *back to regularly scheduled programming*

  • 73ncsu74 Mar 30, 2010

    Wildcat- I meant all death row inmates we don't want to execute along with rapist and child molesters. Would be cheaper to keep them in China than here.

  • 15crew Mar 30, 2010

    Most accusations of brutality are false. And I don't believe for 1 minute that he was assaulted.
    More than likely, he ran from the police and got taken down hard. Probably even a small scuffle.
    I am so tired of the liberal BS I keep reading.
    He is a punk, thug who thinks he's a bad-a$$. When he is actually a little wuss. Put him on trial, convict him, terminate him or send him to a REAL prison for the rest of his pathetic life. (Hard time. Not the country clubs we have now.)