Opening statements expected in trial over Saints star Will Smith's death
NEW ORLEANS — After a jury selection process that lasted well into the previous night, opening statements are expected Tuesday in the trial of the man charged with murder after he shot retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.
Cardell Hayes faces life in prison if convicted on a second-degree murder charge. He’s also charged with attempted second-degree murder because Smith’s wife Racquel was wounded by gunfire.
The shots rang out during an argument that followed an April 9 traffic crash.
Twelve jurors and four alternates were chosen Monday.
Hayes’s defense lawyer has cast Smith as the aggressor in the argument.
Prosecutors have said Hayes willfully rammed Smith’s SUV, leading to the confrontation.
Surveillance video from near the scene showed Smith’s vehicle had earlier lightly struck Hayes’ vehicle.
Questions to potential jurors Monday made clear that Louisiana’s “stand your ground” law will be at issue when testimony begins.
Potential jurors were asked about their attitudes on lethal self-defense. They also were asked whether they can put aside opinions formed amid intense media coverage of Smith’s death. And they were asked how Smith’s popularity might affect their verdict.
Smith was a defensive leader on the 2006 Saints team that helped lift the stricken city’s spirits with a winning season after Hurricane Katrina. He played with the team when it won the franchise’s only Super Bowl three seasons later.
Hayes is a 29-year-old former semiprofessional football player, owner of a tow-truck company and the father of a 5-year-old son. Hayes is described by friends as soft-spoken and even-tempered — not the type to erupt into a lethal road rage.
Jurors will be sequestered during a trial lawyers said could last seven to 10 days.