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Appeals court denies Carruth's bid for new trial

Posted: Wednesday, August 06, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. Former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth lost a bid Tuesday for a new trial on his 2001 murder conspiracy conviction despite an error by a lower court.

A state appeals court ruled that although the trial judge shouldn't have allowed handwritten notes from the victim to be admitted, the notes didn't prejudice the jury because of the overwhelming evidence against Carruth.

Carruth's lawyer, Gordon Widenhouse, said he would seek an appeal before the state Supreme Court. He said the notes were the strongest evidence prosecutors had to make their case that Carruth was involved in a conspiracy.

Carruth was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using a gun to try to kill the baby Adams was carrying. He was acquitted of a murder charge that could have brought the death penalty.

Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child when she was shot while driving. She died a month later.

Her scribbled notes given to police detectives were a major part of Carruth's appeal. His lawyers argue the statements, given after surgery and while Adams was taking pain killers, amount to hearsay.

''The notes were the clearest, unimpeachable evidence that Carruth stopped his car, blocked her car, insisted on coming to the house, and called someone from there,'' Widenhouse said.

Judge John Tyson, writing for the state Court of Appeals, agreed the notes should have been excluded but found they only corroborated other testimony and evidence presented.

''Given the nature and extent of the state's evidence implicating defendant's involvement in the shooting, the recorded 911 call and witnesses' testimony that duplicated the victim's written statements, we hold that any error in admitting the victim's written statement was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt,'' Tyson wrote in the ruling Tuesday.

The appeal court also rejected several other arguments for a new trial, including that prosecutors excluded jurors because of their race. The jury was made up of three black women and nine whites.



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