Re-sentencing for Eve Carson's killer delayed until June
Posted April 26, 2013 9:19 a.m. EDT
Updated April 26, 2013 6:27 p.m. EDT
Hillsborough, N.C. — The re-sentencing for one of two men convicted in the death of former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson has been delayed until June 3.
Laurence Lovette Jr. was initially sentenced Dec. 20, 2011, to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree armed robbery in Carson's shooting death five years ago.
But the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in February that he must be re-sentenced because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling about automatic life sentences of offenders under age 18 at the time.
Lovette, 22, was 17 at the time of Carson’s death. The popular senior from Athens, Ga., was found dead in a neighborhood near the UNC campus on the morning of March 5, 2008.
The Supreme Court ruled that judges must consider mitigating circumstances before sentencing someone under the age of 18 to life without the possibility of parole.
The re-sentencing hearing was scheduled for Friday morning in Hillsborough, but defense attorney Karen Bethea-Shields said Durham psychologist James Hilkey wasn't available to testify because he was in Fayetteville for a competency hearing in the capital murder case of Mario Andrette McNeill.
Hilkey has examined Lovette, and Bethea-Shields said he would present evidence to try to persuade Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour to hand down a lighter sentence.
She said the judge needs to consider Lovette's youth at the time of the crime and all of the things that go along with being a teenager, such as impulsive and reckless behavior.
Bethea-Shields also filed a motion Friday suggesting that Lovette should be sentenced as if he were convicted of second-degree murder.
In response to the Supreme Court ruling, North Carolina lawmakers passed a law that says the sentence should be life in prison with parole if someone under the age of 18 is convicted of first-degree murder solely on the basis of what's known as the felony murder rule. In all other cases, the court must hold a hearing to consider mitigating circumstances, such as the defendant's age, immaturity and ability to benefit from rehabilitation.
Lovette was convicted of first-degree murder not only on the basis of the felony rule but also on the basis of malice, premeditation and deliberation.
The motion notes that the new law was enacted after Lovette's conviction, so no mitigating evidence was introduced at trial to seek a lighter sentence. Applying the law to his case deprives him of due process, according to the motion.
Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he expects the first-degree murder conviction to stand and said he plans to fight against parole for Lovette.
"In my mind, there is only one sentence, and that's life without parole," Woodall said. "Every time I think about Eve, my heart goes out to her, all her friends, the whole community. It's just tremendously tragic."
At the re-sentencing, Baddour will have to consider mitigating factors, but Woodall also could present testimony from Carson's family to persuade the judge to again hand down a sentence of life in prison without parole.
Carson's younger brother, Andrew, attended Friday's court hearing and said it is difficult to see Lovette.
Bethea-Shields said the case also is difficult for her client.
"It's very stressful. It's very stressful right now for him," she said.