Cardell Hayes, 28, was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday, April 28, 2016, on a second-degree murder charge of former 10-year New Orleans Saints defensive end, Will Smith. Hayes was brought into a courtroom in New Orleans, La., where he was not only charged with the second-degree murder of Smith, but also for the attempt to commit second-degree murder, aggravated criminal assault with a firearm, and aggravated criminal damage. Hayes allegedly shot the former NFL player eight times. He is also being charged with the attempted murder of Smith’s widow, Racquel, who was shot twice but survived the shooting.
The altercation occurred when Hayes’ Hummer rear-ended Smith’s Mercedes SUV on the evening of April 9 in New Orleans, La. Smith signaled for Hayes to follow him, and they both pulled over their vehicles two blocks away. According to the New Orleans Police Department, the pair had exchanged words when Hayes reached for his handgun and shot Smith and his wife. One of the lawyers representing the Smith family stated that Mrs. Smith begged for Hayes to leave them alone while holding her hands up. She stated that they “have children [and] this is not worth this.” Hayes did not flee the scene and he was immediately arrested.
Hayes’ lawyers did not deny the shooting of the Smiths, but instead, they are insisting that Hayes was a victim and not the aggressor in the incident. John Fuller, one of Hayes’ attorneys, told CNN that they have reason to believe a bystander recorded the altercation prior to gunshots being fired. The unidentified witness reported that she saw the altercation escalate, as well as what may have happened prior to the shooting. The footage was confiscated by the New Orleans Police Department on the night of the altercation. Hayes’ defense team is working to obtain that footage. They have proclaimed it will show their client is “legally not guilty.”
Hayes was indicted and pleaded not guilty to all five charges in the murder of Smith. His bond was set at $1.7 million. At the conclusion of the hearing, Fuller mentioned his concerns regarding the events and overall indictment process. As a defense attorney for 15 years, he stated he has never witnessed an indictment being announced in a preliminary hearing process. Hayes was indicted without a ballistic report, an autopsy report, or a finalized police report, which also added to Fuller’s negative reaction and frustrations.
The prosecution was ordered by Judge Camille Buras to turn over its witness lists and evidence to the defense by May 17. The next hearing is scheduled for June 3.
Approximately 650,000 people in the United States have died since 1980 due to gun violence. NOLA of Life was instituted by the city of New Orleans and designed to guide gang-affiliated men away from violence. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood before a crowd and spoke about his concerns regarding the violence that occurred, as well as the increased violent activity throughout the city. Furthermore, for added effect, he stood in front of a photo collage of the 1,003 people who were killed in his six years as mayor.
By Tricia Manalansan
Edited by Leigh Haugh
CBS Sports: Cardell Hayes indicted on 2nd-degree murder charge in Will Smith shooting
CNN: Will Smith killing: Cardell Hayes indicted on 2nd-degree murder charge
NBC News: Will Smith Shooting: Grand Jury Indicts Man Arrested in Former Saints Player’s Slaying
Image Courtesy of Todd Martin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License