Law expert: Self-defense claim of Smith's accused killer 'not frivolous'

Law expert: Will Smith accused killer's self-defense claim 'not frivolous'

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Eyewitness accounts from the night of Will Smith's death, the presence of two other guns on the scene and the autopsy report give Loyola Law professor Dane Ciolino reason to not rush judgment when it comes to the case against Cardell Hayes.

"Many, if not most, criminal defense attorneys go to trial with nothing or very little to work with. Here Mr. Fuller has a real case on his hands where he's got facts that are favorable to his client that could wind up resulting in a not guilty verdict based on how everything else comes out," Ciolino said.

The evidence that has yet to come out includes toxicology reports from the scene and ballistic evidence that could take months.

"Claims of self-defense are not frivolous. They may not be meritorious, but they certainly are not without basis and fact," Ciolino said. "Forensics evidence with the shooting shows that it could be consistent with Mr. Smith reaching for a gun across the passenger seat to the passenger glove box. Again, it all remains to be seen."

"Gun violence and homicides are very often over trivial matters," Loyola Criminologist George Capowich said.

The unknown factors could play a roll in the case, especially when it comes to toxicology reports, according to Capowich.

"In particular, let's say the accused was sober, the victim was drunk or shown to be drunk with toxicology reports. Well now the defense can raise the possibility that my client was sober, even-tempered. It was the other person who escalated and my client started feeling fearful," Capowich said.

In a press conference Wednesday, Hayes' lawyer, John Fuller, hinted the NOPD's investigation could be tainted.

"I'm only saying that one of my witnesses witnessed some very untoward activity on that night and I will not reveal her name. I will not reveal specifics about what she saw and I'll leave it at that," Fuller said.

The night Smith was killed he was with Pierre Thomas and former NOPD officer Billy Ceravolo before the shooting. Ceravolo was also at the shooting scene Saturday Night.

Despite the claim made by Fuller, neither Capowich nor Ciolino believe another agency should take over the investigation.

"If there is evidence that the officer tampered with something, that is a whole separate manner the police can handle," Capowich said. "That's not an extraordinary circumstance."

"Based on everything that has been reported to date, I don't see why NOPD should take themselves off of the investigation. After all, they were on the scene within minutes of the shooting."

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