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Admission of victim’s death-bed notes was harmless error

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has turned back the habeas bid of former Carolina Panther wide receiver Rae Carruth who is serving time for orchestrating the 1999 murder of his girlfriend.

Carruth argued his conviction was tainted by the improper admission of accusatory notes written by the victim just before she went into a coma. A three-judge appeals court panel held the notes were merely cumulative evidence in light of a dramatic 911 call made by the victim just after she was shot.

“[T]he improperly admitted statements, though of course supportive of the State’s case, constituted mere drops in the sea of evidence offered by the State to show Carruth’s guilt and were cumulative of the 911 call and other evidence,” wrote Judge Diana Gribbon Motz for the panel.

Evidence in the case showed Carruth, 37, arranged for another man to shoot his 24-year-old girlfriend who was pregnant with his child. Carruth is serving 18-to-24 years in prison for conspiracy to commit murder and other convictions in the case.

His lawyer told the Associated Press he plans to continue his appeals.

By Peter Vieth

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