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Defense: Carruth's rights were violated

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver
Rae Carruth returned to court Thursday in his latest attempt to
overturn a 2001 conviction in the slaying of his pregnant
girlfriend.

The appeal in Mecklenburg Superior Court challenges the
admission of key prosecution evidence during Carruth's trial in
late 2000: a 911 call from girlfriend Cherica Adams following the
shooting and what the 24-year-old victim told a police officer at
the scene and hospital.

The defense claims Adams' statements are hearsay and their
introduction into evidence during the murder trial violated
Carruth's constitutional right to confront his accuser.

Carruth, a first-round draft pick of the Panthers out of
Colorado, is serving a sentence of at least 18 years and 11 months
at Nash Correctional Institution, about 55 miles northeast of
Raleigh. He earns 40 cents a day as a janitor.

He appeared in court Thursday wearing a blue sport coat, beige
pants and a striped tie, patting defense lawyer David Rudolf on the
back as he came in. Carruth's mother Theodry Carruth, was in court
for the hearing, as was Saundra Adams, mother of Cherica Adams.

Adams was eight months pregnant with Carruth's baby when she was
gunned down in a drive-by shooting on Nov. 16, 1999, in south
Charlotte. Doctors saved her son, Chancellor, in an emergency
Caesarean. But Adams, shot four times, died a month later.

Born prematurely and in distress, Chancellor has cerebral palsy.

Carruth, now 30, was convicted in January 2001 of conspiring to
murder Adams, shooting into her occupied vehicle and attempting to
kill her unborn child. Jurors found him not guilty of a charge of
first-degree murder that could have led to a death sentence.

The state Court of Appeals has denied Carruth a new trial and
the state Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court have refused to
hear his case.

The issue in the appeal is the decision by the trial judge,
Charles Lamm, to admit into evidence notes a dying Adams wrote from
her hospital bed that implicated Carruth in the shooting.

The defense also is challenging Lamm's decision to impose the
maximum sentence on Carruth. They argue that a recent U.S. Supreme
Court decision made it illegal for Lamm – and not jurors in the
case – to determine that Carruth's sentence should be aggravated.