Former prosecutor analyzes Carson warrants
Posted June 27, 2008 10:47 p.m. EDT
Updated June 28, 2008 10:59 a.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — A former Wake County prosecutor said Friday that if an allegation that Laurence Lovette and Demario Atwater both shot UNC senior Eve Carson with two different weapons is proved true, it would alter the dynamic of the case.
Trial lawyer Karl Knudsen said the information would also raise the possible culpability of each defendant in the death of the 22-year-old woman, whose body was found about a half-mile from campus the morning of March 5.
The allegation about how Carson, the student-body president on the Chapel Hill campus, was killed is contained in a search warrant that cites a confidential informant. A judge ordered the public release of six search warrants on Friday, saying they wouldn't compromise the investigation.
Knudsen said that while informants can be questionable witnesses at trial, the information they provide in search warrants can be useful if it confirms what police already know. He said the closer the information lines up with the facts the officers already have, the more believable it is.
The confidential informant told investigators that Demario James Atwater admitted to abducting Eve Carson from her home and taking her to withdraw $1,400 from an ATM.
The informant also said that Atwater confided to her that he and Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. both shot Carson multiple times.
Police investigators were able to confirm two claims – that $1,400 was withdrawn from Carson's bank account over a two-day period and that two weapons were used in the shooting, the warrant stated.
However, Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall told WRAL News on Friday that detectives don't believe the suspects went into Carson's home, as the informant claims in the warrants.
Defense attorneys call the information hearsay, say it hasn't been tested in open court and worry about it tainting a potential jury pool.
"The allegations are from anonymous sources, confidential informants, who may have their own reasons for giving this information," Lovette's attorney, Karen Bethea-Shields, said to Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour during a hearing.
“Anytime details about the crime are released and disseminated through the media, there’s always the possibility that people will start to form opinions about the guilt or innocence of the individual,” Knudsen said.
The informant’s statements could become testimony, Knudsen said.
“This person would be considered a witness. If a motion to suppress this evidence is filed, the defense may be able to force the state to reveal who this confidential informant is,” he said.
Knudsen said that waiting to unseal these documents was probably due to the nature of what they contain. Releasing the information earlier might have increased the likelihood of people volunteering information they had heard through the media in hopes of financial gain.
The warrants state that "crime scene search information" shows Carson was shot with two different weapons and that she was shot multiple times, but it does not say how many wounds or where she was shot. Those questions could be answered Monday when Carson's autopsy report is released. Investigators were seeking firearms including "a shotgun and/or .25-caliber pistol."
Investigators seized 16 pairs of shoes from Lovette's and Atwater's homes, the warrants said. Knudsen said that information leads him to believe the police have a shoe print they are trying to match up. The warrants said investigators found a partial show print on a Bank of America receipt in Carson's car.
Regardless of the information contained in the warrants, Knudsen said, the prosecution is just starting its case.
“This is by no means all the evidence they have. This is probably the tip of the iceberg,” he said.