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.
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.]
August 12, 2008
News Update 08.12.08
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.
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.
July 7, 2008
News Update 07.07.08
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.
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.