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Raleigh Criminal Lawyer Says Circumstances Don’t Always Indicate Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

Howard Kurtz - 8/29/2014
When two separate crimes occur in similar circumstances, some prosecutors are ready to “jump the gun” (pun intended) and point to the same individual. I guess this is a natural part of human behavior.  Fortunately in this country, that is not enough for our criminal justice system.

Raleigh criminal lawyer discusses Lovette trial

This is exactly what recently happened in Durham, NC. The staff reports on the acquittal of Laurence Alvin Lovette Jr. for the alleged murder of graduate student Abhijit Mahato. 

The state had tried to establish that Lovette had a habit of violent behavior, and prosecutors called more than two dozen witnesses over six days who testified about Lovette's alleged admission to the crime as well as details about the murder of UNC student body president Eve Carson less than two months after Mahato.

Lovette was convicted of Carson's death in December 2011.

But defense attorneys argued there was no solid evidence – DNA, fingerprints or eyewitnesses – linking Lovette to Mahato's death and that the state's case rested on the testimony of one woman who was not a credible witness.

Lovette's attorney, Karen Bethea-Shields, credited Wednesday's verdicts to both God and a justice system that works as it should.

Lovette is currently serving a life sentence without parole for Carson’s murder. The similar circumstances in Carson’s and Mahato’s deaths were not enough persuade the jury the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Lovett’s attorneys argued there was no solid evidence, like DNA, linking Lovette to the crime. 

There is no doubt that the murder of Mr. Mahato is a senseless tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.  It is no surprise they would be critical of the justice system, but their frustration shouldn’t be directed at the defense team who defended Lovette.

This is how any experienced Raleigh criminal lawyer would approach such a case.

In our judicial system there is no substitute for solid evidence like DNA, fingerprints or eyewitness testimony.  In this case, prosecutors felt that the circumstances of the Carson murder for which Lovette was convicted were very similar.  Much of their case relied upon the testimony of one witness who ultimately proved not to be credible. 

It should be no surprise the jury felt that the prosecution failed to proof their case “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  According to Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried, "The question is not, from my standpoint, what I believe but rather what I can prove.”

We agree.

Any qualified Raleigh criminal attorney understands that circumstances alone are not enough to warrant a conviction, no matter how much they appear to tell a story.  The burden of proof resides with the prosecution.  When the evidence fails to support their argument, the defense team must make sure the jury understands the legal facts of the case.

(Source: Lovette acquitted in Duke grad student's shooting death,, July 30, 2014)


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