Attorney for man accused in Will Smith killing wants NOPD off case

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, pictured in 2012, was fatally shot after a traffic accident in New Orleans.
New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, pictured in 2012, was fatally shot after a traffic accident in New Orleans. AP

The lead attorney for Cardell Hayes, who is accused of killing former Saints lineman Will Smith, is asking the city to pull the New Orleans Police Department off the case, claiming misconduct in its investigation.

Defense attorney John Fuller issued a letter Friday addressed to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison, declaring “a grave lack of faith in the honesty and competency of the investigation” and asking for either State Police or the FBI to take over the case.

“This lack of faith in part stems from factual misstatements from high-ranking members of the Police Department,” Fuller wrote. “As such, justice demands that this investigation immediately be relinquished to a more appropriate, uninvolved agency.”

Fuller’s letter does not specify the factual misstatements he ascribes to police, although he previously has criticized the NOPD for initially saying only one gun — the one used to kill Smith — was confiscated at the shooting scene.

In statements, police have been circumspect about precisely where and when they first learned of a gun, which was never fired, that they said was found in Smith’s car. Police revealed the existence of that gun days after the killing.

Harrison declined to say where the gun was found in comments to WWL-TV on Friday. But he defended the police investigation against “conspiracy theorists,” while adding that he was not responding directly to the comments of any lawyer involved in the case.

“When we first got to that scene, it was about scene control, public safety and making sure everyone was safe,” Harrison said. “The best practice was for us to confiscate everything that was available to us and visible to us at that moment. Then we impounded, as per our protocol, all of those vehicles that were involved in this incident.

“We are making sure that we are thorough, that we are precise and that we are following best practices on all of our police protocols.”

Fuller’s letter was his latest attempt to suggest police bent over backward to avoid public revelations that might reflect badly on the popular former football player.

In response to the letter, NOPD spokesman Tyler Gamble issued this statement: “Every homicide in New Orleans deserves a fair, thorough and complete investigation, and that is what we are doing in this case. We will continue to follow the facts wherever they take us.”

Smith was shot eight times, seven in the back, an autopsy by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office found. Smith’s wife was struck first, according to her attorney, with bullets to both legs.

Neither police nor an attorney for Racquel Smith have identified a couple riding with the Smiths, nor those in a Chevy Impala driving ahead of them that was struck by the Smiths’ Mercedes SUV after it was rear-ended by Hayes’ Hummer.

Police normally do not identify witnesses to a violent crime.

To read more of this story, visit The New Orleans Advocate's website.