by Joe Schwartz
HILLSBOROUGH - Orange County Superior court Judge Allen Baddour expects to rule next week on whether the information provided by tipsters in Eve Carson's murder will be provided to the defense, he said at a hearing today.
Demario Atwater and Laurence Lovette are accused of slaying the former UNC student body president in March 2008. Only Lovette appeared in the courtroom today. Dressed in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffed in front of his waist, he walked calmly to his seat, looked back and then sat quietly through the hour-long proceeding during which Orange-Chatham District Attorney Jim Woodall and four defense attorneys argued their positions to Baddour.
Woodall contends that providing the information to defense attorneys would create a chilling effect on future tipsters, who call Crimestoppers expecting confidentiality and anonymity.
"Literally as long as there's been law enforcement tipsters and confidential informants have had a huge role in solving crime," Woodall said. "It's really critical that the court realizes, and I know you do realize, you've got no obligation to turn this information over wholesale."
Defense attorneys counter that they should be able to review all of the evidence in making their case, saying that the information isn't confidential if Woodall has access to it.
Kevin Bradley, who represents Lovette, said the issue is about fairness, not protecting identities.
"The issue of anonymity is not what we're talking about," he argued. "What we're talking about is are we going to authority a system that gives an advantage to the state?"
In an interview after the hearing, Woodall said he doesn't have any advantage in having copies of Crimestoppers and GangNET documents, noting that defense attorneys can figure out the identity of the callers through police reports that have already been disclosed.
"It's not being provided in that form, but they've got it," he said.
Woodall added that he believes the case would have been solved without Crimestoppers, but that the program enabled the suspects to be apprehended sooner than they would have been without it.
Woodall is seeking to protect the tip sheets, but said he would turn them over if Baddour allowed the defense to view the 600 pages of documents he has as long as they were not revealed to the public.
Baddour spent most of his time asking questions referencing case law and statutes, and explaining to the attorneys the difference he sees between confidentiality and anonymity.
He learned from Woodall that Crimestoppers dispatchers are trained not to take down caller's names, but sometimes record that information anyway.
Baddour wanted more time to review the documents in question before making a ruling.