Demario Atwater, 22, made his first appearance in U.S. District Court in Greensboro. He pleaded not guilty to four charges, including carjacking resulting in death and carrying and using firearms during and in relation to carjacking. Those two charges could each carry the death penalty.
Officials at the U.S. District Court clerk's office said the trial was set to begin November 2009.
State prosecutors are also seeking the death penalty against Mr. Atwater on murder and kidnapping charges in Orange County.
Co-defendant Laurence Lovette isn't eligible for the death penalty because he was younger than 18 when Ms. Carson was killed.
The Department of Justice has yet to approve U.S. Attorney Anna Mills Wagoner's request to seek execution.
Ms. Carson, 22, was taken from her Chapel Hill home before hundreds of dollars were withdrawn from her bank account. She was later shot five times, including once in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Authorities have said Mr. Atwater and Mr. Lovette, each with an extensive criminal history and on probation, were out looking for someone to rob when they spotted Ms. Carson through a front window at her home.
Mr. Atwater was moved last month from Central Prison to an undisclosed location. According to state Correction Department records, he had nine noted infractions between July and September, including lock-tampering, gang involvement, threatening staff and using profanity.