New evidence presented in Will Smith shooting case



Cardell Hayes, the 28-year-old tow truck driver and semi-pro football player accused of gunning down former Saints defensive linemen Will Smith and attempting to kill Smith’s wife last month, appeared Friday in an Orleans Parish courtroom, where prosecutors handed his attorneys evidence that included photographs, ballistics and an initial autopsy report.

Just what that evidence reveals is uncertain. John Fuller, one of Hayes’ attorneys, declined to comment.

Among the unanswered questions in the case is whether Smith, 34, was intoxicated late on April 9 when gunfire rang out in the Lower Garden District during a volatile altercation that followed a three-car collision on Sophie Wright Place.

A prosecutor with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office acknowledged that a supplemental police report, as well as the final autopsy report, remain unfinished. Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Camille Buras set June 1 for another discovery hearing.

Two days after that, Hayes is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing at which Fuller and co-counsel Jay Daniels are expected to ask Buras for a steep reduction in the $1.75 million bond that a different judge set for Hayes upon his April 28 indictment.

Fuller and Daniels have suggested their client fired in self-defense, saying Hayes is “legally not guilty” and wasn’t the aggressor in the dispute.

Hayes, who stands six-feet-four and weighs more than 300 pounds, said nothing as he appeared in orange jail scrubs at Friday’s hearing. He faces counts of second-degree murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and criminal damage to property. The murder charge carries a mandatory life prison term if Hayes, who has no prior felony convictions, is found guilty.

Authorities say Hayes, 28, fired eight shots into Will Smith, including seven in the back, and also fired two shots into Racquel Smith’s legs around 11:30 p.m. during a heated altercation following a chain-reaction crash.

In the meantime, federal agents are looking into allegations raised by Hayes’ attorneys of crime-scene shenanigans, a source said.

Police found a loaded, unfired handgun in Smith’s Mercedes SUV, where the Super Bowl champion was killed in the driver’s seat, apparently after returning to his vehicle following a verbal argument with Hayes and his passenger, Kevin O’Neal.