No Federal Death Penalty in Atwater/Carson Case

April 19, 2010

Demario James Atwater, charged with killing UNC student body president Eve Carson in 2008, has pleaded guilty in federal court.  Had the case gone to trial, he would have faced the death penalty.  A statement from Ms. Carson’s family indicates that they are satisfied with the plea deal.

Atwater still faces charges in state court related to the shooting.


Atwater Trial Scheduled November 2009

December 3, 2008

Demario Atwater, who is accused of killing UNC-Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson, is scheduled to stand trial on federal carjacking charges in a little less than a year.  Atwater has pleaded not guilty.  Carjacking resulting in a death is a capital crime under federal law.  The Department of Justice has not yet approved an U.S. Attorney’s request to seek execution if Atwater is convicted. A judge has given the federal government until March 31 to decide if it will pursue death.

It is unclear if the Obama Administration will continue the Bush Administration’s aggressive policy of seeking the death penalty in federal court where such a sentence is unlikely in state court.

State authorities are seeking death against Atwater on murder and kidnapping charges, but the murder occurred in Orange County, which has not seen an execution in six decades.  Atwater’s co-defendant, Lawrence Lovette, is ineligible for the death penalty in either state or federal court because he was under the age of 18 when the crime occurred.


Carson Family Opposes Death Penalty

October 28, 2008

When Eve Carson was murdered last March, it shook the UNC-Chapel Hill community to the core.  Still, no one was more devastated that the young woman’s parents.  Now both State and Federal law enforcement appear poised to seek the death penalty against one of Eve’s alleged killers, despite her and her family’s opposition to capital punishment.  “They are very, very grateful to law enforcement and to the state and to the federal prosecutors for the way they’ve gone about their work,” said an attorney for the Carson family.  “They would never want to say anything to discourage them from aggressively doing their job. But they do not believe in the death penalty, and neither did Eve.”

[Click here for The Progressive Pulse’s thoughts on how seeking the death penalty in federal court is an attempt to ensure death for the defendant, despite the county’s historical opposition to the death penalty.  No one has been executed for a crime committed in Orange County since 1948.]


Life for Eric Oakes

August 27, 2008

News Update 08.27.08

North Carolina

DW has not found an article on the subject yet, but a Hertford County jury took less than an hour yesterday to sentence Eric Alan Oakes to life without the possibility of parole.  Oakes had faced the death penalty for the 2002 shooting of Tyrelle Overton.

In Orange and Chatham Counties, prosecutors have announced their intention to seek death against Louis Ephraim Wilson.  Wilson is accused of the rape-murder last May of Tracy Lynn Baldwin.  WIlson’s is the fourth capital case District Attorney Jim Woodall has decided to pursue this year in a pair of counties that have not executed anyone since 1948.

The Daily Tarheel, the school paper of UNC-Chapel Hill, is questioning Woodall’s decision to seek death in the case of Demario Atwater, who is accused of killing UNC student body president Eve Carson.

In Raleigh, jury selection has begun in the capital trial of Charles Darryl Dickerson.  Dickerson admits that he killed Brenda Fox in 2006, but asserts that it was a crime of passion.  The State is seeking the death penalty.

Also in Raleigh, 18-year-old Mack Jossie Mojica was informed yesterday that the State might seek the death penalty against him for the stabbing of Christopher Rivera Jiminez.  Mojica’s father convinced him to turn himself in shortly after the argument which led to his friend’s death.

Elsewhere

Capital Defense Weekly is encouraging folks who appreciate their unparalleled coverage of all things death penalty to contribute to several worthy organizations.  Among them is North Carolina’s own Fair Trial Initiative, of which DW is a huge fan.


NC to Seek Death for Atwater, Boyd

August 12, 2008

News Update 08.12.08

North Carolina

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall announced yesterday that he plans to pursue capital punishment for Demario James Atwater. Atwater is accused in the March killing of UNC student body president Eve Carson. Atwater’s co-defendant, Lawrence Lovette, was 17 at the time of the shooting and is not eligible for the death penalty.

Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly will seek the death penalty for Christopher Boyd, but not for either of his co-defendants in the June slaying of local dentist James Boyd (no relation).

In Greensboro, Michael Vernard Thompson has pleaded guilty and accepted a sentence of life without parole for the shooting of local store owner Betty Sibert Thomas. Thomas’ family told the court that their mother wouldn’t have wanted her killer put to death.

Elsewhere

In Georgia, counties are confronting the cost of prosecuting cases capitally. It’s not just attorneys’ fees – the pay for jurors and bailiffs is seven times higher if death is sought than it would be in a regular murder trial. District attorneys say that amending Georgia law to allow defendants to plead to life without parole would significantly decrease capital trial costs.

Relatedly, retired Georgia judge Hilton Fuller is criticizing the prosecution for driving up the cost of the Brian Nichols “Atlanta courthouse shooter” murder trial. “Prosecutors could have proceeded with one or two counts,” said Fuller, “Ten witnesses could prove that case.” Instead Nichols was indicted on 54 separate counts, and the State identified 487 potential witnesses. Defense attorneys were then forced to expend tremendous resources contacting hundreds of unnecessary witnesses to prepare for trial.


Defense Begins Case in Wilson Trial

July 7, 2008

News Update 07.07.08

North Carolina

The defense will begin its presentation today in the case of Jakiem Wilson. Wilson is accused of killing his wife in 2007 and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The Rule 24 hearing for Demario Atwater, who stands accused of killing UNC student body president Eve Carson, has been postponed. “Rule 24 hearing” refers to the proceeding at which the prosecutor formally announces whether s/he will seek death in a murder case. Atwater’s co-defendant, Lawrence Lovette, is ineligible for the death penalty because of his age.

Elsewhere

In Tennessee, Paul House is off death row after serving over 22 years for a rape/murder he may not have committed. Still, House is not free. Although he has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk, House cannot leave his mother’s home, must wear a monitoring bracelet, and must register as a sex offender while he awaits retrial. Prosecutors are no longer seeking the death penalty against him.

CDW reports that Texas’ Lester Bower has received a stay of execution while a judge considers whether the state should bother testing the DNA evidence from his case before they kill him. On a related note, the 19th person exonerated by DNA in Dallas County was freed from prison this week after serving 15 years for a robbery/kidnapping he did not commit.


Judge Removed from Kyle Berry Case

April 11, 2008

News Update 04.11.08

North Carolina

Judge Ronald Spivey has been recused from presiding over the appeal of Kyle Berry, who is on death row for a 1998 New Hanover County murder. Another judge removed Spivey from the case after his hostile courtroom comments to Berry’s counsel were found to indicate prejudice.

The attorneys for Glen Chapman weigh in on how the Attorney General’s office should have handled the case. Had the AG intervened when evidence of Chapman’s innocence first emerged, as it did in the Duke lacrosse case, Chapman would have been saved nearly four years in prison, and the people of North Carolina would have been saved the cost of needless litigation.

Cesar Laurean, suspected in the killing of fellow Marine Maria Lauterbach, has been captured in Mexico. The Onslow County District Attorney has agreed not to seek the death penalty in order to facilitate Laurean’s extradition.

Mark Kleinschmidt asks why Orange-Chatham DA Jim Woodall has recently become so eager to pursue the death penalty.  Woodall’s office has announced its intention to seek death against Barbara Clark and Bobby Lee Person.  There are indications that Woodall will also pursue capital punishment for Demario Atwater, who is accused of killing UNC-Chapel Hill student body president, Eve Carson.  It has been sixty years since someone from Orange or Chatham County was executed.

Elsewhere

Reporting from AI and CDW on this week’s congressional hearings on the poor quality of counsel in capital cases. Among those offering testimony, Bryan Stevenson from Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative. You can read his comments about the travesties of representation he has witnessed here. From Senator Leahy (D-Vt.):

If we sanction the use of a penalty as final as capital punishment, we must be sure that the system is working properly. The catastrophe of executing an innocent person is not one that we can ever tolerate. Unfortunately, the number of innocent people freed from death row to date illustrates that this is not an idle concern.

The best way to ensure that justice is done is to have exceptional counsel on both sides of these cases. As a prosecutor, I always knew that it was better to have good opposing counsel. With properly trained attorneys and appropriate resources on all sides, we can have much more confidence in our system of justice. Unfortunately, our track record on representation of capital defendants has not been good.

In Ohio, the death sentence of Clifton White III has been commuted to life. The State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 that White, who has an IQ of 52 and functions at the level of a second-grader, is mentally retarded. You can read the Court’s decision here.

In Colorado, some are questioning whether a local prosecutor’s aggressive stance on the death penalty is an attempt to distract attention from her own troubles.


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