NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - For the first time since the shocking shooting death of former Saint Will Smith on April 9th, we hear emotional and dramatic testimony from the man on trial for killing Smith, Cardell Hayes.
Defense attorney John Fuller put his client Hayes on the stand this morning. For several hours Hayes went into great detail of what he says happened that night. Hayes said Smith struck him, that he didn't want to fight and saw Smith with a gun before shooting him. Hayes cried during some of his testimony.
Hayes began his testimony about what he was doing that day and night. Hayes said he was hanging out with his best friend Kevin O'Neal and had been to a party. After they left the party Hayes described driving down Magazine Street in his Hummer.
Fuller asked if he was angry when that happened and Hayes responded, "No."
While following Smith, Hayes said he accidentally ran into the back of Smith's Mercedes Benz SUV.
As he got out of his Hummer Hayes said, "I notice a Spanish guy running towards me. He had tattoos on his face. When I first saw him coming towards me, he went into his pocket and then wrapped something around his hand."
Hayes said he thought the shirtless man had a knife. The man Hayes described is Richard Hernandez, who was a passenger in Smith's vehicle. Hernandez had ripped his shirt off after the accident. Hayes also said he didn't know it was Will Smith at that time.
Hayes then described coming into contact with Smith.
Hayes said Smith pushed his wife away from him, shoved his friend Kevin O'Neal and then Hernandez ran up to him with his hands up.
"I'm trying to tell them there's no reason to even fight over no car accident."
Meanwhile Hayes claimed Smith hit him three or four more times and that he blocked some of the swings.
"In my mind, I'm like, I still didn't want to fight. I didn't want any violence. I didn't want to hurt nobody."
Then he called Hernandez a wild man that was "hyping everything up." Hayes said that (Hernandez) told him, 'he's got his gun but he's not going to do nothing. he's scared.' Hayes testified Smith then said, "(Expletive) you got your gun, well I'm going to get mine and I'll show you what to do with it."
Hayes described Racquel grabbing Will as he went back to the vehicle and that Hernandez and a woman began running away.
"I said, he must really have a gun and he must really be going to get it. I didn't have no where to run. I wasn't leaving Kevin behind."
Hayes detailed what he was doing when Will walked back to his vehicle.
"I go this way on an angle. It's just not Will Smith standing there. Racquel was there fighting with him. I'm telling him, no, no man don't do that."
Fuller then asked Hayes if Smith actually ever went into the car.
"He was actually in the vehicle tussling with his wife."
Hayes said he was thinking, "I'm about to get shot, are you kidding. They're actually at the door of the truck, tussling for the gun. He spins her off of him and as he comes up, I see a gun in his hand. I saw him spin out and then I heard pop."
Hayes described shooting Smith, "I was trying to stop my gun from actually shooting. I didn't expect it to actually go off that many times. My weapon falls and when I looked at Smith I said man breathe, breathe. Somebody call an ambulance."
After the police showed up and handcuffed Hayes he said it was then he realized Racquel was shot.
"She said you shot my husband, you didn't have to shoot him. I asked the cop, wait, the woman's shot and the cop said, shut up and keep walking. I was upset that I had to shoot somebody. I feel like it didn't have to go the way it went. I was emotional about it. I just started crying."
Hayes said Attorney Nandi Campbell was the first one to tell him he killed former Saint Will Smith.
"I cried like a baby man. I said, my life is over. They are going to make me out like I shot and killed this man. She (Campbell) patted me on the back and said no baby, your life isn't over don't say that."
Hayes defense attorney Fuller asked him, "who was the only person that made you feel like you were about to be killed?"
Hayes responded, "Will Smith. I knew for a fact that I was about to get shot. I wish they still had Will Smith. I really do. We would both be with our families right now."
Hayes was crying and staring at Racquel.
"I just want to be treated fair, please see things from my perspective too, ya know."
Prosecutor Jason Napoli began cross examination and tried to poke holes in Hayes testimony.
Napoli then said that Smith hit you in the face four times and when Hayes said yes, Napoli countered with, "and it made no marks?"
Hayes, "I was just standing there taking the punches."
Napoli pointed out that O'Neal said there was no physical contact between Hayes and Smith in earlier testimony. He also walked Hayes through the moment Smith's vehicle apparently hit them on Magazine Street on through the shooting.
While Hayes testified seeing a gun in Smith's hand, Napoli said in the statement to police and the 911 call, Hayes never told them that he saw a gun in Smith's hand. When Napoli asked Hayes to show him how he and Smith were positioned just before the shooting, Hayes indicated they were about five feet apart.
Hayes later said, "The picture that you're (Napoli) trying to paint, it never went like that."
The prosecutor turned to how many times Hayes shot Smith.
Hayes said, "It was like rapid fire."
"How many times you pulled the trigger," Napoli asked.
"I was scared, I don't know," Hayes responded.
During earlier testimony Napoli said Hayes was quoted as saying, 'you showing off for the white guy.'
Hayes responded, "I never said that because I never believed that guy was white."
While Napoli questioned Hayes, the defendant kept directing his answers toward the jury even when the two argued back and forth.
Hayes said the reason why he reached back into his vehicle to grab his gun was because of the way Hernandez was acting.
"The first threat was Hernandez. He's the reason I reached into my truck and armed myself," said Hayes.
The Assistant DA Napoli asked Hayes about shooting Racquel, who was shot twice that night.
After a lunch recess Hayes testimony continued as the prosecution zeroed in on the angle Smith was shot. Napoli pointed out that the coroner's findings showed Will's wound's were from left to right. He wondered how that was possible from the angle Hayes claimed to be standing during the shooting.
Hayes said, "I was on an angle to Will, like I said."
Napoli asked about a bullet lodged directly in the passenger door and how it go there and Hayes said he wasn't sure.
The defendant's attorney John Fuller asked what position was Will facing when Hayes said he was on an angle from him and heard a pop.
Fuller also talked about Hayes' police statement and the 911 call. Fuller said the statement was short and he (Hayes) didn't know he was being recorded.
Fuller said those statements were not 'true' statements and that Hayes asked for his attorney right away.
Fuller asked Hayes if he had anything against Mrs. Smith and Hayes said, "Not at all. She didn't do nothing but try to stop her husband from attacking me."
Hayes spent nearly three hours on the witness stand.
At 4 p.m. both the state and the prosecution rested their cases.
Sunday the jury will hear closing arguments and then the jury will begin deliberations.