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Sentence levied

Carruth to serve at least 18 years without parole

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Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2001 12:06 AM
Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2001 8:56 AM

  Rae Carruth Carruth was sentenced after Judge Charles Lamm refused to vacate his convictions on three charges. AP

by Nick Charles,

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Rae Carruth was back in court Monday. This time not to plead for his life, but for mercy.

Carruth didn't break his code of silence as he listened to his attorney ask for leniency. The state of North Carolina urged he be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Judge Charles Lamm agreed and sentenced Carruth to a minimum of 18 and maximum of 24 years behind bars without parole in the 1999 killing of his pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams. Her son, delivered in an emergency Caesarian section after the shooting, survived but suffers from cerebral palsy.

"He's in your custody, sheriff," Judge Lamm announced after sentencing. "You may take the defendant from the courtroom."

Prior to that pronouncement, the most resonating words were spoken by the victim's mother, who pleaded with the judge not to lose sight of the real tragedy of this case.

"I can't hate Rae Carruth, because he is part of my grandson," an emotional Saundra Adams told the court. "But in no way, Judge Lamm, do I think he should get off easy for what he has done. He's already gotten the greatest of mercy. His life is sparred. And I'm asking you, Judge Lamm, for these three charges he has been charged on, please sentence him to the greatest extent. Don't let this be a little smack on the wrist like, 'Oh, you're a bad boy.'"

Carruth's mother, meanwhile, vowed to continue fighting for her son's freedom, saying he was wrongly convicted.

"What happened here was that ... with all the media hype, all the negative publicity one year before the trial went into effect, I think that not sequestering the jury had a lot to do with it," Theodry Carruth said after the sentencing. "I felt that when the jury can go have lunch in the lunchroom with everybody else, when they're exposed to the newspapers, I thought that was very poor. I thought also that some of the people on the jury had already made their minds up. They did not listen to facts."

The judge rejected a request by the defense to throw out Carruth's conviction as inconsistent with his acquittal on the murder charge. But the defense remains admit it will appeal.

"If people have a reasonable doubt, they ought to say so," Carruth defense attorney David Rudolf told reporters. "And if that means we're going to try the case again, so be it."

Rudolf had accused police of ignoring other evidence in a rush to judgement to prosecute Carruth. But the sergeant who headed the investigation said the defendant got off easy.

"The truth is Rae Carruth is guilty of first-degree murder," said Tom Athey of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police department. "The jury chose not to find him guilty of that and we have to go with what they say."

The jury last Friday acquitted Carruth of first-degree murder and saved him from the death penalty. Monday, the foreman explained that reasoning.

"The primary things that weighed into my decision were the 911 call, Kennedy, Watkins and Candace Smith," said Clark Pennell.

"I'm just glad that it's over," said juror Denita Barnett. "She's not going to come back; he's going to have time where he can get out and walk free again. She won't. I just feel for her family."

The jurors have gone back to their lives. The families of both the victim and Carruth have dispersed. Their nightmare of course will never end. As for Carruth, he's now back in the same jail cell in which he spent the past 13 months hoping for an appeal. His life was spared, but based on his sentence here Monday the light at the end of the tunnel to his personal freedom is now only a flicker.

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