Will Smith Murder Trial: The people you need to know

Who you need to know in the Cardell Hayes trial

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - On April 9, former Saints defensive lineman Will Smith and his wife, Racquel, enjoyed a day in the French Quarter.

As documented on their social media pages, the couple attended the French Quarter Fest, before heading out to dinner at Sake Cafe on Magazine Street. After dinner, the couple was to head downtown to the Windsor Court, but surveillance video shows a fender bender between smith's Mercedes SUV and an orange Hummer on Magazine Street.

The public later learned Cardell Hayes was the driver of the Hummer.

Minutes after the accident, both vehicles stopped on Sophie B. Wright Place near Felicity Street.

After an argument between the two men, Smith and his wife were both shot. Hayes remained on the scene and was immediately taken into custody.

His attorney says he feared for his life. Smith died at the scene, while his wife was taken to University Medical Center.

Will Smith

34-year-old Will Smith was known by many in New Orleans. He may not have been from the Crescent City, but he helped lift New Orleans to one of the biggest emotional highs this city has ever experienced; as a captain of the Super Bowl 44 championship team.

Born in Queens, New York, Smith attended Ohio State University and was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft.

He retired from the NFL in 2014. Smith had been married to his wife, Racquel, a Louisiana native, since 2008. He leaves behind three children.

Cardell Hayes

Hayes, 29, is a New Orleans native and former football player at Warren Easton High School. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Hayes' father, Anthony Hayes, was shot to death by New Orleans police.

Police say the 38-year-old was acting erratically and brandished a knife on St. Charles Avenue when police pepper sprayed him and then shot him nine times.

Cardell Hayes won a settlement in 2011 to end a federal lawsuit alleging Hayes' mentally ill father was unjustly shot to death by New Orleans police.

Most recently, Hayes worked as a tow truck driver.

Following the shooting on April 9, Hayes was jailed and is still being held on a $1.75 million bond.


Cardell Hayes is represented by defense attorney John Fuller. He's a familiar face around Orleans Parish Criminal Court. In fact, he was tapped to fill a temporary judgeship but turned it down just a few days after accepting the Hayes' case.

Fuller attended Loyola University Law School. He has been practicing law for 15 years.

Laura Rodrigue will be trying the case for the state with fellow prosecutor Jason Napoli.

Rodrigue is the daughter of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Rodrigue graduated from Notre Dame University and went on to get her law degree from Loyola University Law School in 1996.

She is known for prosecuting high-profile, violent crimes, including the recent Trung Le – Bourbon Street shooting case.

Napoli, 33, will also be trying the case for the state. Napoli graduated from Tulane University Law School. He often works with Rodrigue on high-profile matters at criminal court. Napoli has been practicing law for seven years.


Pierre Thomas: The former Saints running back dined with Will Smith and his wife at Sake Café before the shooting.

Thomas wasn't in the Smith's SUV at the time of the accident, and subsequent shooting, however, he was photographed on the shooting scene a short time later.

Thomas posted on his Instagram account that he witnessed his friend be murdered. While Thomas says he flew back to Chicago immediately after the shooting, he is expected to be called to testify at the trial.

Billy Ceravolo: At the time of the shooting, Ceravolo was a member of the NOPD's reserve unit. He also dined with Smith and his wife before the shooting on April 9.

Ceravolo's attorney maintains he had already arrived at the Windsor Court at the time of the fatal shooting. Ceravolo was later photographed on the shooting scene on Sophie Wright Place.

In the days after the shooting, the NOPD removed Ceravolo from its reserve unit. An NOPD spokesperson said the move was made out of an abundance of caution after questions arose about Ceravolo's actions on the scene that night.

Kevin O'Neal: The former Warren Easton football player was a friend of Hayes and rode in his Hummer on the night of the shooting.

The 30-year-old was questioned by police in the hours after the incident.

According to our partners at Nola.com | The Times-Picayune, both Hayes and O'Neal played together on the Crescent City Kings, a local football developmental team.

Their first game of 2016 would have been May 21, just a month after the shooting of Will Smith.

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