After a change in North Carolina General Assembly policy, Laurence Alvin Lovette, Jr., one of the two convicted murderers of Eve Carson, will have a re-sentencing hearing.
Eve Carson was a 22-year-old University of North Carolina Chapel Hill student who was shot and killed March 5, 2008.
Lovette was sentenced to life in prison at the time of his conviction — when he was 17 years old.
Reason to re-sentence
In July 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States passed a bill stating that the court will consider “mitigating factors” in determining the sentence of a person who committed a crime as a minor.
Since the time of Lovette’s conviction, the debate has been sparked as to whether or not sentencing a minor to life imprisonment is cruel or unusual punishment. The totality of the circumstances surrounding Lovette’s criminal actions will be taken into account at the re-sentencing hearing. Lovette was also convicted of murdering Duke graduate student Abhijit Mahato in 2008.
Dan Coenen, the associate for faculty development in the School of Law at the UGA, broke down the two issues which will be addressed in Lovette’s resentencing.
“One is, affirm the determination of guilt at the trial,” he said. “That is, there wasn’t any error committed in the trial of Lovette that requires a new trial, in other words, is his conviction for first degree murder and for other things, is upheld...The court also said, which was not a surprise to anybody...the Supreme Court of the United States issued this new decision and because of that, it was not appropriate to give him life without parole because that is exactly what the Supreme Court said in this later decision that you cant do.”
The “later decision” that Coenen referred to is Miller v. Alabama in 2011, a case where a 14-year-old was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. While juveniles, including Lovette in this case, can still receive a sentence without the option of parole after their re-sentencing hearing, it is also “entirely possible that the judge will give exactly the same sentence, that is life without parole,” Coenen said.
Not a trial
There will not be a jury assigned to Lovette’s re-sentencing — the court will make the decision. If the judge sentences Lovette to life with parole, he will be in prison a projected 25 years before parole. As far as his parole eligibility, that would be determined by “summing the minimum terms of the individual sentences,” according to the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government website. This means that his convictions of first-degree murder, armed robbery and murder will also be taken into consideration in determining how long he is imprisoned, which is how the 25 years came about. If Lovette is paroled, he would serve a five year term.
“He is not being re-tried. That is very important. Being re-tried means there would be a new trial that would have to do with the determination of his guilt and innocence, in respect to the charges brought against him that he murdered Eve Carson,” Coenen said in order to clarify the hearing, which will take place on a date which has not yet been announced.
The main issue that Miller v. Alabama addresses is the mental maturity of the defendant at the time of the crime.
“The legal concept is the brain is not fully formed until you’re an adult,” said Frank Baumgartner, a distinguished professor of political science at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “And of course, when people see a 17-year-old do some horrific thing, you know, they’re really likely to be angry at a severe punishment if they do some terrible crime. But, you know, at what age are you old enough to really take responsibility?”
The crimes of a juvenile
The Court states three reasons why the possibility of life with parole is on the table for juveniles who committed a crime. First, they have a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility, leading to recklessness, impulsivity, and heedless risk-taking. Second, children are more vulnerable to negative influences and outside pressures, including from their family and peers; they have limited control over their own environment and lack the ability to extricate themselves from crime-producing settings. Third, a child’s character is not as well formed as an adult’s, making his or her actions less likely to be evidence of irretrievable depravity.
All of these factors will be taken into consideration for Lovette’s case and convicted minors’ cases in the future, and the judge will have to assess the circumstances and make a decision.
“Violent crime is essentially a young man’s game,” Baumgartner said. “You may come out of prison when you’re 45 years old and you may not have learned any life skills in prison, and that’s another issue. You’re not likely to be the same violent predator, and of course, some people are and that’s what people are worried about, but it’s not likely that a 45-year-old person is going to do the same level of violence that a 16, 18, 20, 22 year old is going to do, thank goodness.”