UNC murder suspect wants death penalty decision reversed
Posted November 12, 2009 2:38 p.m. EST
Updated November 12, 2009 4:36 p.m. EST
Winston-Salem, N.C. — Attorneys for Demario James Atwater have filed a motion asking that the federal court strike the death penalty in his case.
Atwater faces a number of federal charges, including kidnapping and carjacking resulting in death, in the March 5, 2008, shooting death of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's student body president, Eve Marie Carson.
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina late last month, defense attorneys claim the Department of Justice violated its internal procedures and a court order when it held a meeting to determine whether to seek the death penalty without the presence of Atwater or his attorneys.
Attorneys cite an illness of one of the attorneys for not being present, as well as not enough time to prepare for that meeting.
"The appropriate remedy for this deprivation is for this court to strike the authorization of the death penalty in this matter unless and until the government grants the defendant an opportunity to be represented fully by his court-appointed counsel before the Capital Case Review Committee …" a memorandum attached to the motion stated.
A trial on the federal charges has been scheduled for May 3.
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.
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.