Rae Carruth was born on January 20, 1974 in Sacramento, California. He attended the University of Colorado on a football scholarship, and became one of the fastest wide receivers in college football.
After an outstanding senior year, the Carolina Panthers drafted Carruth in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft. After two years of average play in Carolina, Carruth prepared to make a comeback in the last season of his contract. However, he would never reach the end of the season, as Carruth became the first active player in the NFL to be charged with first degree murder.
On November 15, 1999 Carruth's pregnant girlfriend, Cherica Adams, was critically injured in a drive-by shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Carruth was not the shooter, instead he was on a cell phone with the three men who murdered her. Adams was able to place a call to 911, during which she claimed that Carruth had been at the scene. Her son, Chancellor Lee Adams, was delivered that night by cesarean section that night, ten weeks premature. He would spend months in intensive care, but would eventually be released from the hospital.
From her hospital bed, Adams once again claimed that Carruth had been at the scene of the shooting, and the police in Charlotte went to work. Carruth and the three men were arrested and charged with attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder on November 26th. Carruth was immediately placed on leave by the Panthers and suspended indefinitely by the NFL. After posting the $3 million in bail, Carruth was released on December 9th. When Cherica Adams died from her wounds on December 19th, the charges against Carruth and the three gunmen were promoted to first degree murder, his bail was revoked, and a warrant was reissued.
With the police after him, Carruth left Charlotte with another girlfriend. The police tracked him to a Best Western in Wildersville, Tennessee, where he was found hiding in the trunk of his car. He was extradited to Charlotte, where he was denied bail. It was later discovered that Carruth's mother was the one that led police to the motel where her son was captured.
As the investigation of the murder progressed, two of the shooters, Van Brett Watkins and Michael Kennedy, agreed to testify against Carruth in order to receive lesser sentences. The DA for Mecklenberg County announced that they will be seeking the death penalty against Carruth. Jury selection began on October 23, 2000. Twenty potential jurors, mostly black, were dismissed by the DA, causing the defense lawyer to claim the DA was using race as an issue in selection. The DA claimed that he released these jurors based on their feeling about the death penalty. The last four alternate jurors were confirmed on November 14th. The jury consisted of seven white men, three black women, and two white women.
The trial would last just over three months, during which the jury heard the tape from Cherica Adams' 911 call, testimony from Watkins and Kennedy about the conspiracy, and a long line of character witnesses describing some of the more violent moments in Carruth's life. The defense had little to work with, proclaiming Carruth's innocence, and trying to control the damage caused by the prosecution. Carruth did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial.
The jury deliberated for five days, at one point writing a note to the judge declaring a split on all charges and asking for further instruction. On January 22, 2001 the jury found Rae Carruth not guilty of first-degree murder, but did find him guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder. Carruth has escaped the death penalty, but was sentenced to 19-24 years on the conspiracy charge. Carruth appeal his case to the North Carolina Supreme Court on October 3, 2003, but was denied. He has filed a new appeal on March 10, 2005, stating that the admission of Adams' 911 call into evidence at his trial was hearsay.