Charlotte is no stranger to high-profile trials: 4 from the legal archives

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Opening statements in the trial of Char-Meck Police Officer Randall Kerrick could begin as early as this week. Kerrick, a white police officer, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 24-year-old black former football player Jonathan Ferrell.

With racial tensions taut throughout the U.S., this case is under close scrutiny. But this isn’t the first time Charlotte has dealt with a high-profile trial:

Rae Carruth

The crime: In 1999, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth and his 24-year-old girlfriend, Cherica Adams, were returning from a movie in south Charlotte in separate cars. According to a 911 call, Adams told dispatchers that a car pulled up next to her on Rea Road and a man shot her four times.

She died a month later. Her unborn son, Chancellor, survived but is severely handicapped. Prosecutors argued that Carruth masterminded the murder because he didn’t want the baby.

The verdict: Carruth was convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to 18 years and 11 months, which he is serving in Nash County, N.C. A friend of Carruth’s was convicted of pulling the trigger.

Jim Bakker

The crime: The Praise the Lord ministry run by the iconic Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was housed here in Charlotte and then Fort Mill for decades. The couple used to have a TV show where Tammy Faye would famously bawl, thick black mascara running down her face, while the pair asked viewers for prayers and money. It was the height of televangelism.

Turns out, the money wasn’t always being used for the good of the Lord. Bakker was charged with swindling donors out of $158 million and using the money for fancy cars, an air-conditioned dog house and a mistress, as well as a theme park that drew millions of visitors. The Charlotte Observer’s coverage won it a Pulitzer Prize.

The verdict: At his 1989 trial, Jim Bakker was convicted of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud and sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. The sentence was reduced and Bakker is now out. Tammy Faye was not charged and later died of cancer.

Josh Griffin

The crime: Kim Medlin was driving home on March 29, 1997, from her cocktail waitress job at The Men’s Club in Charlotte when she disappeared. Her body was found the next day in a field in Monroe. She’d been strangled and her neck was broken. Two months later, police arrested Josh Griffin, a Monroe police officer that prosecutors claimed stalked Medlin.

The verdict: Griffin was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 2005, it was learned that Griffin has confessed to the crime.

George Shinn

 

The crime: In Charlotte’s first go-around with the Hornets, the team was owned by George Shinn. He met a woman named Leslie Price at a drug rehab center (she was getting treatment, he was visiting a family member) in 1997. She says he offered to help her find a divorce attorney. Price then claimed she went to Shinn’s lakefront Tega Cay house and he forced her to perform oral sex. Shinn said the sex was consensual.

The verdict: S.C. prosecutors didn’t charge Shinn, but Price sued him and the civil trial was all anybody could watch. In the end, the jury unanimously found in favor of Shinn.

Photos: Charlotte Observer archives.


jenpic5Jen Rothacker remembers flipping through the channels as a kid and catching the Jim and Tammy show. She rejected a life of televangelism to eventually become an editor at the Charlotte Observer.

 

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