Lawyers spar over evidence at Lovette trial

Man serving life for murder of UNC student body president is also accused of killing Duke graduate student in 2008.
Defense attorneys for Laurence Lovette Jr. moved to have evidence against him excluded from his second murder trial Thursday.

Lovette - who is one of two men convicted of the 2008 killing UNC student body president Eve Carson - is now on trial in the January 2008 murder of Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato.

Investigators have said Lovette robbed and fatally shot Mahato at his Durham apartment. Mahato's friends later discovered his body after going to check on him when he did not respond to their calls and text messages.

Autopsy results revealed the grad student was shot between the eyes.

Mahato's made headlines locally and in India, where the victim was born. Lovette's connection to Carson's murder led to more publicity about Mahato's death.

The mother of Lovette's co-defendant Demario Atwater in the Eve Carson case is a witness for the prosecution.

Thursday, Superior Court Judge Jim Hardin heard a motion from Lovette's lawyers who want the case dismissed or the testimony of key witnesses suppressed.

Attorney Karen Bethea-Shields told Hardin that it wasn't until this week that she got evidence from a Chapel Hill Police Department investigator detailing what Atwater's girlfriend Shanita Love said in an interview.

Love told police that Lovette and another teen killed Mahato and laughed about it when they heard someone else was charged in the case.

Bethea-Shields said the late arrival of the evidence is a violation of the rules of discovery - which require attorneys to turn over all their evidence to each other in advance of a trial. She wants Love's testimony excluded along with Durham Investigator Nicholas Cloninger and CHPD Investigator Celisa Lehew.

On the witness stand Thursday, a Lehew denied withholding notes of Love's statements - saying she just jotted down bullet points on a "sticky note."

She also denied threatening Love with prosecution to get the statements.

Judge Hardin told the investigator to find the note and continued the issue to Friday morning.

The lawyers then turned back to jury selection. Finding jurors has been a challenge because of the publicity surrounding the Mahato and Carson cases.

Lovette was offered a plea deal but rejected it.

Twelve jurors and three alternates have been seated. Opening arguments could begin Friday morning.

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