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Starr Takes Arlington Capital Case

The former White house prosecutor has taken on the case of Arlington’s only death row inmate.

The former White house prosecutor has taken on the case of Arlington’s only death row inmate.

<bt>Former White House special prosecutor Kenneth Starr has taken up the case of Arlington's only death row inmate, Robin Lovitt. Appearing before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond Feb. 8, Starr argued that defense attorneys in his client's initial trial failed to present evidence that could have changed the outcome of the case, including details of childhood abuse Lovitt allegedly suffered at the hands of his father. Starr is seeking to overturn the verdict.

Lovitt was convicted in 2000 for the stabbing death of Clayton Dicks during the robbery of Champion Billiards, a pool hall in Shirlington. Prosecutors maintain that Lovitt robbed the pool hall for money to purchase drugs. Dick was stabbed six times, five in the chest and once in the back. Part of the prosecution's case rested on the testimony of Casel Lucas, who was an inmate in the Arlington County Detention Center at the time of Lovitt's arrest. Lucas testified that Lovitt confessed to the murder. Lucas told the jury Lovitt admitted to killing Dicks because Dicks had recognized him. Other witnesses testified to seeing Lovitt at the pool hall, where Lovitt had worked briefly as a cook, prior to the robbery.

“There was a sufficient investigation into this case and Lovitt's childhood,” said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the state's Attorney General's Office.

LOVITT'S ORIGINAL case was marked by courtroom scandal that, defense attorneys argued, sheds doubt on the verdict. According to affidavits from two court clerks, Clifford P. Kleback and Gwendolyn Gilmore, a third clerk, Robert McCarthy, destroyed DNA evidence pertaining to the case. McCarthy testified that the loss of evidence, which was destroyed only days after a new state law had gone into effect mandating that all biological evidence be preserved, was a simple mistake. He added that the material was taking up needed space in the court's storage facility.

“The DNA would not have changed the outcome,” said Murtaugh.

According to the records of Lovitt's trial, state forensic scientist Carol Palmer, an expert witness on DNA testing, testified that the evidence that was recovered proved inconclusive. Lawrence Abrams, an identification technician for the Arlington County Police Department, testified that he was unable to obtain fingerprints from the handle of the scissors Lovitt allegedly used to stab Dicks, due to its irregularly shaped surface. Yet the jury also heard testimony from Warren Grant, Lovitt's cousin. Grant said that on the night of the robbery, Lovitt appeared at his home with a metal box. He said Lovitt asked him to help pry it open. It contained money. A similar box was missing from the scene of the crime.

Lovitt was convicted for several crimes prior to the murder, including attempted robbery. On appeal, Justice Barbara Milan Keenan upheld the court's ruling. Lovitt has maintained his innocence. He is currently being held at a state prison in Sussex, where he is awaiting the results of this latest effort to win his freedom.