The U.S. Supreme Court decided last year that the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment means that juvenile crimes cannot be punished by a life sentence with no chance of parole. For Laurence Lovette, formerly of Durham, that he will have a second chance to prove to a judge that he should not spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Lovette was convicted of murdering UNC-Chapel Hill's student body president on March 5, 2008. At that time, Lovette was 17 years old. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder and an additional 28 years for related kidnapping and robbery.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the Orange County Superior Court must resentence Lovette in light of the Supreme Court's prohibition against mandatory life sentences for juveniles. The 28-year sentence for kidnapping and robbery remains unchanged; only the life sentence without parole for the murder is being reconsidered.
Lovette may still face a life sentence on the murder charge, but a sentencing hearing is required to consider all mitigating factors related to his crime and punishment. A life sentence without parole can no longer be automatically given to a person convicted of a crime committed while under 18.
Lovette is one of potentially 80 people currently in prison in North Carolina who may be eligible for resentencing in light of the 8th Amendment. It is unlikely that Lovette will spend much of his life outside of prison; charges are pending against him in another 2008 murder case.
Source: Raleigh News & Observer, "Lovette to be resentenced for 2008 murder of UNC student body president," February 5, 2012