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Split Decision In Carruth Trial

Catholic pilgrims carry a large cross in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, during the Good Friday procession and the Way of the Cross, in Jerusalem's Old City, Friday, April 6, 2007. Christian pilgrims from around the world filled the narrow cobblestone streets of Jerusalem's Old City on Good Friday.
AP Photo/Kevin Frayer
Former NFL player Rae Carruth was acquitted of first-degree murder but convicted of conspiracy Friday in the fatal shooting of his pregnant girlfriend.

The one-time rising star receiver for the Carolina Panthers could have gotten the death penalty if convicted of murder in the death of Cherica Adams, who was shot in November 1999 and died a month later.

Carruth, 26, remained grim-faced as the jury's decision, reached after about 20 hours of deliberation, was announced. A day earlier, the jurors had said they were deadlocked.

Carruth could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison on the conspiracy conviction. He was also found guilty of shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument - a gun - to destroy an unborn child.

Judge Charles Lamm dismissed the jury and scheduled a hearing Monday at which he will sentence Carruth.

Defense lawyer David Rudolf said he will ask Lamm to vacate the conspiracy conviction because it is inconsistent with the acquittal on the murder charge.

The Carruth Compromise Legal Consultant Andrew Cohen reports the jury's unusual conclusion — that Rae Carruth shot into a car, killed an unborn child and conspired to murder, but didn't commit first-degree murder — may have been the product of a compromise during deliberations.

Click here to read it.

"My first reaction is deep disappointment. I'm grateful they found him not guilty of first-degree murder," Rudolf said. "It's hard for me to feel like it's a victory. ... I believe in my client's innocence, and I don't feel he is guilty of any of the charges in the first place."

Juror Edward Karst said he was satisfied with what he called a "compromise verdict."

"We couldn't get agreement for the first-degree," Karst said in a brief telephone interview Friday night. "We didn't spend 4 1/2 days in there for nothing. We didn't want it to be a waste of everybody's time. I think we made the right decision."

As the verdict was announced, Adams' mother, Saundra Adams, tearfully embraced relatives in the courtroom. She hugged prosecutors entry Caudill and David Graham after the jury left.

"I think they believe justice has truly been served. Justice has spoken," said Frank Porter, lawyer for Adams' father, Jeff Moonie. "It has given them closure."

Carruth's mother, Theodry, stared quietly at her son until he and the jury left, then huddled with supporters and prayed.

Adams, 24, was ambushed as she drove down a Charlotte street and shot four times. Her son, fathered by Carruth, was delivered by emergency Cesarean section and is now in the custody of her mother, Saundra Adams.

Confessed gunman Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy, who drove the car that carried Watkins, testified that Carruth - who already had one son - arranged the shooting because he didn't want to be responsible for Adams' child.

Perhaps the most damning testimony came from Adams herself, as prosecutors played a recording of her call to a 911 operator moments after she was shot.

Moaning in pain, Adams said Carruth had stopped his Ford Expedition in front of her car when "somebody pulled up beside me and did this. ... I think he did it. I don't know what to think."

Carruth's defense insisted Watkins shot Adams on his own because he was angry that Carruth had backed out of a drug deal and because Adams made an obscene gesture at him from her car.

The defense also challenged the idea that Carruth was afraid to pay child support, calling team officials to testify that he was making more than $650,000.

At the time of the shooting, Carruth was a member of the Carolina Panthers, which drafted him 27th overall in 1997 after a standout career at Colorado.

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