On March 5, 2008, the student body president of the University of North Carolina was senselessly murdered on a residential street near the college campus. Two men were charged with her murder, one of whom pleaded guilty last year and is currently serving two life terms. The second man, now 20 years old, went to trial on first-degree murder allegations on December 7.
In his opening statement, the prosecutor claimed the victim was still alive and conscious after she was shot four times with a .25-caliber weapon. The motive for the alleged murder was said to be robbery, and authorities claim the men used the victim's ATM card to withdraw money that night and in the days following the incident.
The man on trial was 17 at the time of the murder. As such, he cannot receive the death penalty and is leaving his fate in the hands of a jury to determine if he is guilty or innocent of the violent crime.
His lawyer argued to the jury that the evidence will leave the panel with more questions than answers, and that those questions will add up to reasonable doubt. If convicted, the man will almost surely face a sentence of life in prison. With the prospective penalty clear, the man is left fighting for his continued liberty.
While the evidence appears daunting, the man charged is entitled to the same presumption of innocence that protects every single individual accused of a crime. The prosecution alone must meet its burden to prove each and every element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt in a North Carolina court room. That is no small feat, and it remains to be seen how the court and a jury will treat the evidence, with the young man's life hanging in the balance.
Source: The Washington Post, "Murder trial begins for man charged with killing UNC student body president Eve Carson," The Washington Post Staff, Dec 07. 2011