His lawyers allege in new court documents that he was. Atwater, 23, is charged in the death of UNC Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson.
Investigators believe Carson was taken near her Chapel Hill home on the morning of March 5, 2008.
According to an autopsy report, she was shot five times. Investigators have said Atwater and Laurence Lovette drove Carson's SUV to various ATMs in Chapel and Durham before the murder. They say the Athens, Georgia woman watched as hundreds of dollars were withdrawn from her bank account.
Both men are facing several charges, including first-degree murder, robbery and kidnapping. Federal prosecutors are also pursuing carjacking and weapons charges against Atwater, making him eligible for the federal death penalty if he's convicted.
In his federal trial set to begin in Winston-Salem later this year, defense lawyers are trying to get statements made by Atwater to police on the night of his arrest thrown out because he was in fear of more abuse. They say exclusive video from ABC11 of Atwater the night of his arrest shows he was unsteady on his feet and had a fresh abrasion on his face. The same abrasion appears in photos taken at Atwater's first court appearance.
Lawyers allege he was assaulted by Durham police and that Atwater statements that night are not reliable and shouldn't be used at his trial.
They quote the recording of his interrogation where Atwater is heard saying: “I’m gonna get my [deleted] kicked first of all because I’m not saying the things that y’all want to know. I’m not saying the things y’all want to hear.”
Atwater goes on to say he was hit on the ground by Durham police after he lay down voluntarily.
"I got down on the ground myself and they stomped my [deleted] face in the [deleted] ground. They hit me 9 or 10 times in the car. Then they got mad because the press was onto me. They were like, ‘I guess that’s all we can do here. I hope they handle him in Chapel Hill.’”
While Atwater was arrested in Durham, he was taken to Chapel Hill because that's where Carson was murdered. The interview was conducted by Chapel Hill police. According to Atwater's attorneys, the interviewer tried to reassure him he was safe.
Here's more from their motion:
"When the interrogating officer attempted to reassure Mr. Atwater that he was safe (for example, stating, “I guarantee you that nothing will happen to you,”) the defendant responded, “You can’t help me.” Later, when the officer told him he would not be beaten up, the defendant responded, “Yeah. I am. I already know that.”
When contacted by ABC11 for this story, the Chapel Hill Police Department declined to comment.
Durham Police Jose Lopez said: "We have not received a complaint from either Mr. Atwater or his attorney in two years."
Atwater's attorneys have asked for the names of the Durham police officers involved in his arrest.