RALEIGH Laurence Alvin Lovette, one of two people convicted of killing UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson in 2008, was too young at the time of his crimes to automatically get a sentence of life without parole, the state Court of Appeals has ruled.
The court sent Lovette’s case back to Orange County Superior Court for resentencing for the murder conviction.
Lovette was 17 in March 2008, when prosecutors contend he and DeMario Atwater kidnapped Carson from her home early in the morning, forced her into the backseat of her SUV, drove her to ATM machines and withdrew money from her account, then shot her five times in a wooded neighborhood about a mile from campus.
A jury convicted Lovette in December 2011 of first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree kidnapping.
Judge Allen Baddour sentenced him to life in prison without possibility of parole, and consecutive terms of at least 14 more years for kidnapping and robbery.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that barred mandatory life sentences for minors convicted of murder. The country’s highest court ruled that a sentence of life without possibility for parole violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
That case, filed by Evan Miller against the state of Alabama, offered hope to some 2,000 juvenile offenders nationwide serving life sentences without possibility for parole. In North Carolina, according to the state Juvenile Defenders Office, 60 to 80 people in state prisons could potentially seek relief under the 2012 ruling. But it is not clear whether the decision applies retroactively to cases.
Lovette was midway through the appeals process when the ruling came down so his sentence was not final. He challenged it as too harsh, and the state Court of Appeals stated in the ruling released Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court decision applied to his situation.
It was unclear Tuesday morning when the case will go back to Orange County Superior Court for resentencing on the murder conviction.
State law, adopted in 2012 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, does not preclude the judge from giving Lovette the same sentence.
The 22-year-old Durham resident’s attorneys, though, will be able to make their case for something less than life in prison without possibility for parole.