Defense: Lovette didn't know he could have shot at parole
Posted February 6, 2014 6:58 a.m. EST
Updated February 6, 2014 7:18 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — One of two men convicted in the 2008 shooting death of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson would have approached his case differently if he had known he had a chance at parole, his attorney told the state Court of Appeals on Thursday.
Lawrence Alvin Lovette Jr. was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole when he was convicted of first-degree murder on Dec. 20, 2011.
The sentence was reconsidered last year because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that offenders under age 18 at the time of a crime – Lovette was 17 years old when Carson was killed on March 5, 2008 – can't receive life sentences without parole unless mitigating circumstances are weighed. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour in June affirmed the sentence of life without parole.
Lovette, now 23, appealed the sentence, maintaining that he should have a chance at parole, and attorney Keat Wiles argued Thursday that his lack of knowledge that parole could be a possibility amounted to a due process violation.
Wiles told the three-judge appeals court panel that Lovette might have testified during his trial or might have skipped the trial altogether and pleaded guilty if he thought parole was part of the "sentencing scheme" he faced.
"Had a defendant in Mr. Lovette’s situation walked into court and said, 'I’m guilty,' the sentence, I respectfully submit, would be life with parole, but he didn’t have that option," Wiles said.
The appeals court should vacate the sentence of life without parole and impose the lesser sentence that would make Lovette eligible for parole after 25 years, he said.
Assistant Attorney General Derrick Mertz said there is no evidence of any due process violation.
"He’s not saying he would have testified. He’s produced no evidence he would’ve testified. He’s produced no evidence of a new defense he would’ve raised," Mertz said, adding that Lovette was "arguing for some sort of jury nullification" by setting aside a sentence that was reached twice in his case.
Mertz noted that there were few mitigating factors in Lovette's case for Baddour to consider that would have justified a lesser sentence.
In resentencing Lovette, Baddour said he felt there was no chance of Lovette being rehabilitated. Mertz said that Lovette's own expert witness in the case testified that he didn't know if Lovette could be rehabilitated, although he held out hope of a rehabilitation after 20 to 25 years.
Carson, 22, was a UNC senior when Lovette and another man kidnapped her from her Chapel Hill home and drove her to ATMs, where Lovette withdrew money from her bank account. The pair then drove Carson to a neighborhood about a mile from UNC's campus, where she was shot five times.