Carruth trial: Day 22
Rudolf won't reveal whether Carruth will be called
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- The Rae Carruth murder trial resumed Tuesday after a long holiday break with the former NFL player's high school football coach telling jurors he admired Carruth and loved him like a son.
Meanwhile, defense attorney David Rudolf would not disclose whether he planned to call Carruth to the witness stand to rebut testimony that he masterminded the 1999 shooting death of his girlfriend.
"I will decide shortly," Rudolf said outside the courthouse during a lunch break Tuesday. "I've got an idea in my mind."
Testimony ended early because a prosecutor had a doctor's appointment. The last witness of the day was George Laughrun, a former lawyer for Carruth, who testified that the athlete sounded frightened after his girlfriend died.
The defense claims Carruth didn't have anything to do with the Nov. 16, 1999, attack on his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, who was eight months pregnant with Carruth's child. Prosecutors say Carruth had Adams killed because he didn't want to pay child support.
Rudolf was asked if he typically called clients to the witness stand in murder cases.
"Forget about murder cases," he said. "I rarely put defendants on the stand in any case."
Carruth's former coach, Melvin Fontes, testified that Carruth was highly respected by his peers and teachers at his Sacramento, Calif., high school and was a leader in a student conflict resolution program.
"Rae could be my son," said Fontes, who admitted on cross-examination he hadn't seen Carruth since he joined the Carolina Panthers.
Another character witness, Rocky Whittaker, said Carruth interacted well with children during events held by Whittaker's sports promotion company.
Prosecutors have put two co-defendants on the stand who testified that Carruth hatched the plan to kill Adams, who died a month after she was shot. Her son was delivered by emergency Caesarean section after the shooting and is in the custody of Adams' mother.
In five weeks of trial testimony, the prosecution also used Adams' 911 call and notes of her suspicions about Carruth's involvement in the shooting.
While Carruth's attorneys say they won't decide whether to put him on the stand until the last minute, the lawyer for a third co-defendant who has not testified said making Carruth a witness might be a good move.
"I think the state has done a good enough job that it behooves David to put Carruth on to counter that," said James Gronquist, the attorney for Stanley Drew Abraham. "My personal view is that if the state proves that Rae was at the scene, then they're likely to get a conviction.
"I think Rae has to get up and say he wasn't there and be believed."
Carruth, 26, could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.
The admitted gunman, Van Brett Watkins, and co-defendant Michael Kennedy, accused of driving Watkins, testified that Carruth set up the attack and blocked Adams' car with his vehicle so Watkins could shoot her.
Carruth's defense claims he wasn't involved and wasn't at the scene.
Watkins' testimony was erratic and argumentative, but he remained insistent about Carruth's involvement, telling a story similar to the one told by Kennedy.
Watkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in a deal with prosecutors, who chose not to call him to the stand. Instead, the defense was obliged to call him in order to admit as evidence his statement to a jailer that he shot Adams on his own, in a fit of rage.