Prosecution plays 911 tape at Carruth trial

A prosecutor urged jurors Monday to listen to the words of the woman whose death Rae Carruth is accused of masterminding.

"Cherica is still here," prosecutor Gentry Caudill said during closing arguments of the murder trial. "She's the voice saying to you that Carruth did this, he's guilty."

Caudill quoted Cherica Adams and played a tape of a 911 call in which she says the former NFL player was present when she was shot Nov. 16, 1999.

"In the last few weeks, I contend we've seen an effort to make her go away, to disappear," Caudill said. "We've had wide receivers and defensive backs and running backs, fullbacks. We had anesthesiologists and psychologists. ... We've even had Henry Lee, a star from the O.J. (Simpson) case, to come and talk with us."

But Lee and the other witnesses were merely diversions, he said.

"And that's what this is all about -- a diversion to get your mind off of the evidence against that man right there, Rae Carruth."

The 26-year-old Carruth could get the death penalty if convicted of murdering Adams, 24. She was eight months' pregnant with his child when she was shot and died a month later. The boy, Carruth's second child, survived and lives with Adams' mother.

Prosecutors contend Carruth, then a receiver for the Carolina Panthers, arranged the shooting to avoid having to pay child support.

The defence claims Carruth, one of four defendants, was not involved in the killing and Adams was shot by a drug dealer who was angry Carruth had backed out of financing a drug buy.

Caudill was to be followed by defence lawyer David Rudolf, then have the final word before the judge sent the case to the jury.

At one point, Caudill walked over to Adams' parents, Jeff Moonie and Saundra Adams, and patted them on their backs while he criticized a defence witness who said they may have encouraged Adams to implicate Carruth.

He placed an oversized photograph of Adams on an easel, telling jurors that the victim herself was the strongest witness against Carruth.

"What she went through to be her, ... the pain she endured to tell you."

Caudill quoted from Adams' 911 tape in which she told a dispatcher that Carruth blocked her car as another car pulled up beside hers, allowing someone in that car to shoot her. He later played the tape, bringing sobs from Adams' family.

Caudill also explained to jurors why prosecutors did not call Van Brett Watkins, the admitted triggerman, to the stand. Instead, defence lawyers called Watkins as a witness.

Prosecutors decided against calling Watkins after Michael Kennedy, who investigators said drove the car from which Watkins fired the shots, agreed to testify without a plea agreement.

For Carruth, it's all or nothing -- a first-degree murder conviction or an acquittal. The jury does not have the option of voting for reduced charges, such as second-degree murder.

Under North Carolina law, a defendant can be convicted of first-degree murder if there is premeditation or if the killing is committed during another felony.

Carruth faces three more felony charges: conspiracy to commit murder, shooting into an occupied vehicle and using an instrument -- in this case a gun -- to destroy an unborn child.