Ex-NFL Player Murder Trial Starts

Ex-NFL player Rae Carruth went on trial Monday in the death of his girlfriend, with defense lawyers urging the judge to move his co-defendants to another jail so they couldn't watch the proceedings on Court TV.

Jury selection was to begin later in the day. As the session got under way, prosecutors said they added the names of co-defendants Michael Eugene Kennedy and Stanley Drew "Boss" Abraham as possible witnesses in Carruth's first-degree murder trial.

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, a onetime wide receiver for the NFL's Carolina Panthers, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Cherica Adams, 24, and could face the death penalty if convicted. She was seven months pregnant with his child when she was gunned down Nov. 16 as she sat in her car. She 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 usshe 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 also face the death penalty.

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