Rae Carruth Murder Trial Begins

Monday, October 23rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of ex-NFL player Rae Carruth, accused of masterminding the shooting death of his pregnant girlfriend to avoid paying child support.

By mid-afternoon, prosecutors had questioned 11 potential jurors about their views on the death penalty and dismissed one man who said his religious beliefs would prevent him from supporting a death sentence in any case. If convicted of first-degree murder, Carruth could be sentenced to death.

Much of the morning was taken up with defense motions, including one that Carruth's co-defendants be moved to another jail so they could not watch the proceedings on Court TV.

As the session began, prosecutors added the names of co-defendants Michael Eugene Kennedy and Stanley Drew ``Boss'' Abraham as possible witnesses.

Their main witness is expected to be Carruth's third co-defendant, Van Brett Watkins, whose name was already on the witness list. Watkins, the admitted triggerman, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify against Carruth.

Defense attorneys David Rudolf and Chris Fialko asked that all three co-defendants be moved to another county jail where they would not have access to Court TV, which will televise the trial.

Superior Court Judge Charles Lamm denied the motion but asked a sheriff's deputy to determine if the three can be denied access to Court TV. Witnesses are often barred from attending trials before taking the stand in order to make sure other people's testimony doesn't influence them.

Lamm also denied two other defense motions: one to have the court reporter list the race of potential jurors and one not to require the jurors to say they could hand down a death sentence if appropriate. The defense said Carruth should face no more than a life sentence since that's the worst Watkins faces.

Carruth, 26, once a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cherica Adams, 24. She was seven months pregnant with his child when she was gunned down Nov. 16 as she sat in her car and died a month later. The baby boy, named Chancellor, survived.

Gravely wounded, Adams told the 911 operator that she had been shot several times by someone who fired at her from another car. She said her boyfriend, Carruth, was sitting in his Ford Expedition in front of her car when ``somebody pulled up beside me and did this.'' Moaning in pain, she said, ``I think he did it. I don't know what to think.''

Prosecutors contend Carruth, whose football career was troubled by injuries, masterminded the hit because he didn't want to pay child support. From the outset, Carruth has maintained his innocence, claiming he was miles away from the shooting and had nothing to do with its planning. He has been jailed without bond since December.

Watkins was to testify that Carruth paid him $5,000 to kill Adams. Last Wednesday, Carruth's attorneys filed a motion claiming Watkins told another version of the shooting to a jail guard — that he shot Adams when she made an obscene gesture at him, not because Carruth paid to have her killed.

``She looked over at the car and seen us, she flipped me off. ... I lost it. I just started shooting,'' Watkins is quoted as saying in handwritten notes from a Mecklenburg County sheriff's deputy that were included in the filing.

The defense also claims Adams was shot just hours after Carruth refused to finance a drug deal involving Watkins and another man charged in Adams' murder.

``It was Rae's fault,'' the deputy recalled Watkins saying. ``If he had just given us the money, none of this would have happened.''

No trial dates have been scheduled for co-defendants Kennedy, 25, and Abraham, 19, who could also face the death penalty.