Cardell Hayes, the man accused of murdering former Saints player Will Smith, has been indicted on a charge of second-degree murder.
He’s also been indicted in the attempted second-degree murder of Will’s wife, Racquel, aggravated criminal damage to a vehicle and on another charge of aggravated assault.
The indictment came during a probable cause hearing scheduled at the same time, as witnesses called by the defense testified about the April 9 double shooting.
Hayes’ attorneys John Fuller and Jay Daniels, who have criticized the investigation since Hayes’ arrest at the Lower Garden District crime scene after the shooting, had subpoenaed 24 witnesses for the hearing — including Smith’s former teammate Pierre Thomas.
By opting to charge Hayes in an indictment, District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office will be able to keep some evidence in their case under wraps for longer. Many of the witnesses Hayes’ attorneys planned to call were subpoenaed for the grand jury proceedings at around the same time Thursday.
The indictment answers why New Orleans police had not yet charged Hayes in the shooting of Racquel Smith. Days after the shooting, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble said charges were pending against Hayes in connection to Racquel Smith’s shooting. She was shot once in each leg and attended her husband’s funeral in a wheelchair. But nearly three weeks after the high profile incident, prosecutors had yet to charge Hayes in her shooting, choosing instead to allow the grand jury to determine whether to charge him.
Will Smith was fatally shot shortly before 11:30 p.m. April 9 following a traffic crash in the Lower Garden District, police say. According to the department, Hayes’ Hummer H2 rear-ended Smith’s Mercedes SUV. An argument followed, then gunfire. The former defensive lineman was shot seven times in the back and once in the chest, according to Orleans Parish Coroner Dr. Jeffrey Rouse.
Questions remains about whether Smith was in possession of a gun when Hayes opened fire. An attorney for the Smith family, Peter Thomson, has said a gun police said was found in Smith’s SUV remained in a compartment of the vehicle the night of the shooting. Fuller has suggested, however, that he can produce a witness who will dispute that. Police have not said where in the vehicle Smith’s gun was located.
Fuller and Daniels have not disputed that Hayes pulled the trigger. They have continued to assert, however, they can prove Hayes is “legally not guilty” of murder, suggesting — but not expressly saying — the shots might have been fired in self-defense.
Thomson told reporters Hayes killed Will Smith, a father of three, in “cold blood,” yelling has he stood over Smith’s body after shooting him.
Hopefully as time goes on we’ll get a clearer understanding of what exactly happened.