NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL) – Louisiana’s controversial stand-your-ground law is taking center stage in the Will Smith murder investigation.
As the case works its way from investigation to potential trial, facts such has who was the aggressor and whether the popular former Saints player ever brandished a weapon will be key points, especially when it comes to a stand-your-ground defense.
Competing narratives, paint two very different versions of the facts on the night Smith was shot and killed. He died next to his SUV Saturday night after what police described as a deadly case of road rage in the Lower Garden District.
John Fuller, the attorney for Cardell Hayes, the man accused of shooting Smith claims his client is “legally not guilty” of murder.
“Cardell Hayes was not the aggressor and during the course of the preliminary hearing and the trial, that will become readily apparent,” Fuller said.
Peter Thomson, the attorney for the Smith family claims Smith was not aggressor. He said an “enraged” Hayes followed Smith and his wife, Racquel, back to their SUV after the situation had been diffused and shot Racquel in each leg, then shot her husband 8 times in the back.
“That is specific intent, specific intent to shoot and kill him and specific intent shoot or kill or cause great bodily harm to his wife,” Thomson said.
Under Louisiana law, a homicide is justifiable when committed in self-defense by one who reasonably believes that he is in imminent danger of losing his life or receiving great bodily harm. A person must also be acting lawfully in order to claim stand-your-ground as a defense. The defense does not apply to a person who is an aggressor.
“The question of who is the aggressor is the most significant question as it relates to the application of Louisiana’s stand-your-ground law,” WWL-TV Legal Analyst Chick Foret said.
In recent days there has also been a lot of back and forth over whether Will Smith brandished a gun. Hayes’ attorney claims a cell phone video exists that may show a gun in Smith’s possession.
Smith’s attorney claims his client’s gun never left his vehicle.
“The placing of the gun in Will Smith’s hand is significant for the jury in determining who was the aggressor,” Foret said.
Louisiana is one of about two-dozen states with some version of the stand-your-ground law.
Cardell Hayes remains in jail on one count of second-degree murder.