Local News

UNC murder suspect's federal trial to stay in N.C.

Posted April 13, 2010 5:52 p.m. EDT
Updated April 19, 2010 9:30 a.m. EDT

— A U.S. District Court judge on Tuesday denied a request to move out of state the federal trial for a man charged in the 2008 shooting death of the student body president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Defense attorneys for Demario James Atwater asked for the change of venue last year, citing "extensive" media coverage that has tainted the jury pool throughout the state, which would violates their client's right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

Atwater faces a number of federal charges, including kidnapping and carjacking resulting in the March 5, 2008, shooting death of Eve Marie Carson. His trial is set to begin May 3, and if he is convicted, he could face the death penalty.

In their motion, his defense attorneys cited a statewide survey conducted last June that found that 80 percent of respondents have knowledge of the case and that 52 percent already believe Atwater is guilty of killing Carson.

Fifty-two percent said they believe Atwater should be sentenced to death.

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. No trial date, however, has been set for those charges.

Authorities say Atwater and another man, Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr., kidnapped Carson, forced her to withdraw money from ATMs, shot her five times, including once to the head, and left her on a residential street near the UNC campus.

Federal prosecutors allege that Atwater fired the fifth and final shot that killed Carson.

Lovette also faces several charges, including first-degree murder. Under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, however, he is not eligible for the death penalty.

That ruling prohibits the executions of criminals under 18 at the time of a crime. Lovette was 17 when Carson was killed.