The Latest: Defense focuses on Smith passenger


NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on the trial of Cardell Hayes, charged in the April shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith (all times local):

2 p.m.

The attorney defending the man who killed ex-New Orleans Saints star Will Smith is blaming a passenger in Smith’s vehicle for inciting much of the chaos that led to Smith’s shooting death following a traffic crash.

Cardell Hayes is charged with second-degree murder in Smith’s April 9 shooting death.

In a Sunday closing argument that has lasted three hours, defense lawyer John Fuller reminded jurors of Richard Hernandez, a passenger in the SUV drove that was rear-ended by Hayes’ vehicle.

Trial testimony indicated Hernandez jumped out of Smith’s SUV and wildly stripped of his shirt as though readying for a fight.

Hayes testified Saturday that he believed Hernandez had a knife. Hayes said he only shot Smith after Smith grabbed a gun from the damaged SUV. Prosecutors said there is no evidence Smith or Hernandez was armed.

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10:30 a.m.

The attorney defending the man accused of killing ex-New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in April has told jurors not to be swayed by other football stars attending the trial.

John Fuller told jurors in the trial of Cardell Hayes not to be swayed by the “parade” of fellow football stars that have visited the courtroom and angrily accused prosecutors of unfairly attacking the defense lawyers’ credibility.

Fuller said police failed to thoroughly investigate Smith’s death and insisted prosecutors haven’t proven Hayes’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hayes says he shot Smith in self-defense during a confrontation after an April 9 traffic crash. He’s on trial for second-degree murder.

Fuller told jurors to consider what would have happened if the situation had been reversed — if the shooter had been a beloved football star and the victim had been an unknown.

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9:30 a.m.

A prosecutor is telling a New Orleans jury that former Saints star Will Smith was “executed” in April by a man who shot him eight times and wounded his wife.

Jason Napoli (NAP’-oh-lee) made the assertion as closing arguments began Sunday morning in the trial of 29-year-old Cardell Hayes. Hayes is charged with second-degree murder for shooting Smith during a confrontation over an April 9 car crash. He’s also charged with attempted second-degree murder because Smith’s wife was wounded that night.

Hayes testified Saturday and that he only fired after Smith had retrieved a gun from his damaged SUV.

Napoli says Hayes was an aggressor who rammed Smith’s car. He dismissed defense claims that Smith was the aggressor and that Hayes is not guilty under Louisiana’s “stand your ground” law.

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8 a.m.

A jury could begin deliberating Sunday in the fatal shooting of New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.

Closing arguments are expected in the trial of 29-year-old Cardell Hayes, who would face a mandatory life sentence if convicted of second-degree murder.

Hayes fatally shot the former NFL player in April following a collision between his Hummer and Smith’s SUV. Hayes also is charged with attempted second-degree murder for shooting Smith’s wife, Racquel, in the legs.

Hayes took the stand Saturday and said he heard what sounded like a gunshot before he fired in self-defense. He also said Smith grabbed a gun during their confrontation. No other witness said Smith was armed. Prosecutors said the loaded gun remained untouched inside Smith’s damaged car.