Monday, January 22
Foreman: No one surrendered individual principles



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The jury foreman in the Rae Carruth murder trial praised his colleagues for their ability to focus on key evidence in the complicated case and come to a united, not compromised, verdict.

Foreman Clark Pennell said Saturday that the jury worked together to reach a verdict that didn't force any one in the group to surrender his or her individual principles. He took issue with opinions raised by some legal experts that the split verdict was a compromise so a sharply divided panel could avoid becoming a hung jury.

"I don't think there is anyone on the jury who could not look you right in the eye and say they felt we made the (right) decision," he said.

"I can only answer for myself, but at no point did I feel I was ever compromising my position. There may be others on the jury who considered that they compromised, but we came to all of our decisions together."

On Friday, the seven-man, five-woman jury acquitted the former NFL player of first-degree murder but convicted him of three other charges, including conspiring to kill his pregnant girlfriend, who was ambushed and shot in her car in November 1999.

Carruth, who turned 27 Saturday, faces up to 25 years in prison, legal experts said. A sentencing hearing was set for Monday.

Cherica Adams, 24, was mortally wounded in an attack prosecutors said Carruth set up to avoid paying child support. Prosecutors said the former Carolina Panthers wide receiver used his white Ford Expedition to block Adams and set her up for the kill by a hired gunman, Van Brett Watkins.

The verdict came after about 20 hours of jury deliberations over four days.

"None of us felt Carruth was innocent of any of this, but because there were so many unanswered questions, we couldn't convict him of first-degree murder," juror Susan Childs told WSOC-TV in a news conference from her Pineville home Saturday.

Reached by telephone at his Charlotte home, Pennell said the jury did not immediately take a vote after getting the case Tuesday.

"We went through our notes for about 20 or 30 minutes, then we started our discussions," he said. "We had a huge amount of stuff we needed to go through."

With Pennell in charge, the jury went through each of the questions they had about the evidence in the long trial.

Pennell, 52, a manager of furniture services for Crisis Assistance Ministry, a nonprofit agency that assists the needy, said the work was methodical and productive.

"We didn't take a vote until 15 to 20 minutes before we sent out our first note to the judge (at noon Thursday)," he said. "We felt we were at an impasse and we wanted some additional instructions."

Pennell said the jury made a pact not to disclose the numerical breakdown on the first of the two votes it took during the deliberations. While the jurors were divided on the initial secret ballot, he said, they were not a hung jury.

After Superior Court Judge Charles Lamm sent them back to continue their deliberations Thursday, jurors went back and started from scratch, Pennell said. They did not talk, but each juror quietly reviewed his or her notes again.

Just before the jury was about to go home Thursday night, the members decided to "try to look at the flip side" of the issues that divided them. When they gathered Friday, it was a very productive meeting.

"Some voices were raised, but it was the kind of discussion where you speak loudly to make your point," he said.




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