Former NFL star Rae Carruth went on trial on murder charges today, with a prosecutor accusing him of having his pregnant girlfriend killed because she wouldn’t get an abortion.

“He wanted her to have an abortion, but she was adamant in her refusal. She wanted to have that baby,” Gentry Caudill told the jury.

A defense attorney blamed the shooting on a friend of Carruth’s who was angry because Carruth would not provide money to buy marijuana.

Death Penalty Sought

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for the 26-year-old Carruth, a former wide receiver with the Carolina Panthers.

He is accused of hiring someone to shoot 24-year-old Cherica Adams in her car in 1999. She was eight months pregnant with his child. The baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean section and survived. Adams died a month later.

The prosecutor told jurors that Carruth and his three alleged accomplices laid a trap, and Carruth helped close it by blocking Adams’ car so another man could pull alongside and shoot her.

Before she died, Adams gave statements and wrote notes, saying that Carruth blocked her car, then left the scene, according to Caudill.

However, defense attorney David Rudolf said Van Brett Watkins, who has confessed to the shooting and agreed to testify against Carruth, was angry because Carruth would not provide money for a marijuana purchase.

Testimony in earlier hearings indicated Watkins, 40, told a jailer he shot Adams because he was mad at Carruth and because Adams made an obscene gesture at him from her car.

Race Issue Raised

Rudolf said the shooting “had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she was pregnant.”

Rudolf said Carruth had enough money to support the child and “participated in the pregnancy. … He went and bought baby furniture. … They agreed to co-parent this baby. They weren’t going to get married.”

Two other men are also charged with murder: Michael Eugene Kennedy, 25, accused of driving the car from which the shots were fired, and Stanley Drew “Boss” Abraham, a passenger in the car. They will be tried separately.

In a Court TV interview before the trial opened, Carruth’s mother proclaimed his innocence.

“If my son had done this, I would be in front of this camera saying he deserves to be punished but don’t kill him,” Theodry Carruth said. “But my son didn’t do this. He is innocent.”

During jury selection, lawyers for Carruth, who is black, made race an issue as prosecutors repeatedly dismissed blacks from the jury. But Judge Charles Lamm ruled that the dismissals were based on opposition to capital punishment and other factors other than race.

The jury has seven white men, two white women and three black women.