Local News

DA: Warrants in Eve Carson's death should remain sealed

Posted April 28, 2008 11:09 a.m. EDT
Updated April 29, 2008 12:19 p.m. EDT

— Search warrants pertaining to Eve Carson's homicide should stay sealed, Orange County's district attorney argued Monday, because there is specific information that can identify two informants who helped investigators arrest two suspects in the case.

"The informants in this case will be in physical danger if that information is made public," Woodall said during a hearing on a motion by The Durham Herald-Sun to release six search warrants related to the case.

Woodall wants to wait for at least 60 more days before making the information public while police conduct more interviews.

"The investigation is less than two months old," he said. "This investigation will continue for sometime."

Defense attorneys for Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., 17, and Demario James Atwater, 21, also want them sealed to ensure the right to a fair trial, given the high-profile nature of the case – Carson, 22, was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president.

But John Bussian, an attorney for the Herald-Sun, argued that the news media has a First Amendment right to know what is in the documents and that the state must be able to justify why the documents are sealed.

"If we can't see the records, and we can't see what the government is offering as reasons for sealing, then how in the world is the public and the press going to have confidence in the exercise of the search and seizure power," Bussian said.

Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour is expected to rule on the motion Tuesday.

The Durham newspaper filed the motion to unseal the warrants on April 14. Among them are a March 17 warrant for Lovette's mother's home at 1213 Shepherd St. in Durham and another for an apartment at 2507 S. Roxboro St.

Police conducted other unspecified searches five days earlier.

Court orders to seal the documents say the public release of information in them "would be detrimental" to the ongoing investigation.

But the Herald-Sun's attorneys asked Monday why the information couldn't be redacted, but Woodall said the information, alone, could reveal the informants' identities.

Lovette and Atwater were arrested and charged with first-degree murder about a week after Carson's was shot to death in the early-morning hours of March 5. Police found her body about a half-mile from the UNC campus while responding to reports of gunfire.

A hearing is scheduled for May 5 to determine whether to pursue the death penalty against Atwater.

Lovette cannot be executed because of a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits executing anyone who was under 18 at the time of a crime.