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Posted at 8:01 AM ET, 02/16/2011

Va. court upholds Rae Carruth conviction

By Associated Press

A federal appeals court upheld former NFL player Rae Carruth's conviction for plotting to kill his pregnant girlfriend, rejecting his claim that the jury was improperly swayed by statements made by the victim before she slipped into a coma and eventually died.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that while Cherica Adams' statements and written notes should have been excluded from the trial, their admission amounted to harmless error because there was so much other evidence of Carruth's guilt.

"With a wealth of admissible evidence, the state presented an overwhelmingly strong case that Carruth orchestrated a plan to kill Ms. Adams to avoid paying child support and that the plan unfolded as he had designed it," Judge Dianna Gribbon Motz wrote in the unanimous opinion.

Carruth's lawyer, Milton Gordon Widenhouse Jr., said he plans to appeal the decision.

"We think it's an important question for the U.S. Supreme Court to address: the degree of deference that a federal court should give a state court in its interpretation of the Constitution," Widenhouse said Tuesday.

The 24-year-old Adams, who was eight months pregnant, died weeks after she was shot in November 1999 in Charlotte, N.C. Carruth, a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers from 1997 through 1999, was acquitted of first-degree murder but was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, discharging a firearm into occupied property and using an instrument with intent to destroy an unborn child. The boy survived and is being raised by Adams' mother.

The 37-year-old Carruth, also known as Rae Lamar Wiggins, was sentenced to 18 to 24 years in prison.

According to testimony, Adams and Carruth had gone to the movies in Charlotte, stopped by his house to get her vehicle and then Adams followed Carruth to her house. Along a twisting, two-lane road, Carruth slowed or stopped, forcing Adams to do likewise. A car pulled up beside Adams and an occupant shot into Adams' vehicle.

Van Brett Watkins fired the shots and Michael Kennedy drove the car. Both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testimony that Carruth paid Watkins $6,000 to kill Adams and the baby.

In a 911 call, Adams reported that she was following her boyfriend and that he slowed down and someone pulled up beside her and shot her and her unborn baby. She said Carruth left the scene.

She later told a paramedic that "Rae" shot her, describing him as "my baby's daddy." At the hospital, Adams wrote notes saying that Carruth had insisted she follow him to her house, and that before they left he made a call and she overheard him say "We're leaving now."

Carruth claimed on appeal that the statements to the paramedic and the hospital notes were the centerpiece of the prosecution's case and should not have been admitted because Adams couldn't be cross-examined.

The appeals court agreed that the statements should have been excluded but said they were hardly the key element of the state's case, which included the "extremely powerful and unchallenged account provided by Ms. Adams" in the 911 call and the testimony of Carruth's accomplices and other witnesses.

The improperly admitted statements, the court said, "constituted mere drops in the sea of evidence offered by the state to show Carruth's guilt."

Carruth fled after he was charged in the slaying. The FBI found him hiding in the trunk of a friend's car in Tennessee.

By Associated Press  | February 16, 2011; 8:01 AM ET
Categories:  Around the Nation, Celebrities, From the Courthouse, Updates  
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Comments

Good! Rae-lene needs to keep his punk ass in jail...facilitating a murder and then HIDING in a trunk.

Posted by: linroy62 | February 16, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I agree with commentator, "linroy62", what a pathetic waste of humanity Carruth is for trying to shirk his responsibilities when killing his girlfriend...he got off light, 'cos had I been the judge, he'd be in for natural life with no chance for parole... He's nothing more than scum!

Posted by: kenibrown | February 16, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I watched his trial on Court TV and words cant describe what a piece of s*&t he is. It is a shame that poor women had to die knowing that the person she loved & trusted set her up and then ran off in the night like a little b&*ch. He left her on that back road intending for her to die by herself. She was alittle bit stronger than he thought she was. I hope he is someones girlfriend in jail. Their son I believe is disabled because of the shooting and lack of oxygen he received. My blood is boiling just reading this article.

Posted by: nickatnight69 | February 16, 2011 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I mean come on Rae, to kill your unborn child because you don't want to pay child support! It's one thing to kill your baby mother but it takes a cold hearted person to kill a baby, not to mention an unborn baby of your own. I have a one year old and by God can I only imagine someone including myself doing anything to hurt him. 24 years, I still say he got off easy...I would've given him life w/o parole

Posted by: shereyh18 | February 16, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

I mean come on Rae, to kill your unborn child because you don't want to pay child support! It's one thing to kill your baby mother but it takes a cold hearted person to kill a baby, not to mention an unborn baby of your own. I have a one year old and by God can I only imagine someone including myself doing anything to hurt him. 24 years, I still say he got off easy...I would've given him life w/o parole

Posted by: shereyh18 | February 16, 2011 3:48 PM | Report abuse

That SOB got off light for having Ms. Adams and their unborn baby murdered. He should have gotten the death penalty...

Posted by: hritewing | February 16, 2011 6:18 PM | Report abuse

I think the headline should have referred to an Appeals Court in VA, not a VA court. I thought the case occurred in NC, so I wondered why it was before a VA court.

It bears mentioning that the child, although he survived, was grievously injured; loss of blood and oxygen to his brain left him severely handicapped and he was born with cerebral palsy. Whenever Rae gets out, it will be too soon. Well, Martin O'Malley is happy he didn't get death.

The Carruth case is why courts need to get it right; if one side thinks they can't get a fair result through judicial means, they will resort to extra-judicial means. Our judicial system fetishizes "fair" trials (hence this appeal) at the expense of a just outcome. Certainly, Carruth's conviction was fair, but it was the prospect of his baby momma taking him to the cleaners in terms of child support (see, e.g., Gil Arenas' baby momma today) that motivated him to have her shot. Unless and until courts produce just results, you will see more instances of this.

Posted by: gbooksdc | February 16, 2011 11:40 PM | Report abuse

This bears mentioning: The leading cause of death for pregnant women is homicide.

Posted by: gbooksdc | February 16, 2011 11:44 PM | Report abuse

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