Rae Carruth, Former NFL Receiver, Appeals Murder-Plot Conviction
Lawyers for Carruth told the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., that statements and written notes by the girlfriend, Cherica Adams, after she was shot tainted the jury and should not have been admissible in court.
According to the testimony, Adams and Carruth, now 36, had gone to the movies in Charlotte, N.C., then stopped by his house to get her vehicle and Adams followed Carruth to her house. During the drive, a car pulled up next to Adams and shot her in the vehicle.
Adams, 24, died weeks after she was shot four times in November 1999, but the baby survived.
After the incident, Adams told the paramedic that "Rae" shot her and at the hospital wrote notes saying that Carruth was insistent that she follow him to her house and that before they left he made a phone call and she overheard him say, "We're leaving now."
Van Brett Watkins admitted in a North Carolina courtroom that he fired the shots, while using a handgun owned by Carruth, who had pulled in front of Adams to block her escape. Michael Kennedy drove the car. They both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony that Carruth paid Watkins $6,000 to kill Adams and the baby.
However Gordon Widenhouse Jr., Carruth's attorney, said that these statements were unconstitutional because Carruth did not have a chance to refute those statements under cross-examination presented to the jurors.
State court ruled that the 911 call in which Adams reported that she was following her boyfriend when someone pulled up beside her and shot her and her baby was admissible, but the notes were not because Adams could not be cross-examined.
Widenhouse Jr. also maintains that in order for this to have been a fair trial he should have been able to cross-examine Adams, the star witness.
It took four days to reach a decision and Carruth's attorneys argued that inconsistencies in the jury's verdicts -- not guilty of murder but guilty of conspiracy and of using the gun on Adams and a weapon on an unborn child -- show that this was not an easy decision.
"That is powerful evidence that this jury was having difficulty reaching this decision," Widenhouse Jr. said.
Currently, Carruth is serving an 18-to-24-year prison term and is scheduled to be released in 2018.
Carruth, who is also known as Rae Wiggins, was a first-round pick in the 1997 draft out of Colorado and played for the Panthers from 1997 to 1999. He recorded four touchdowns in 22 games played.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.