Will Smith’s murder trial began in New Orleans on Monday, with Cardell Hayes facing murder charges in the death of the former Super Bowl champion. The incident stemmed from a traffic altercation in April.

Smith, who was fatally shot, was 34.

“We do know from facts in the case that, yes, he was legally drunk at the time,” NOLA.com criminal court reporter Ken Daley said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Will Smith’s blood alcohol content measured out at .235, which is almost three times the legal limit of .08 to drive a car legally in Louisiana. So we do know that he was intoxicated. However, only (Hayes’ friend), Kevin O’Neal, and presumably Cardell Hayes, if he testifies, are contending that Will Smith actually came out violent. There really are no other eye witnesses or videos that surfaced showing that Will Smith took a swing or pushed or in any way physically threatened Cardell Hayes.

“That’s what this entire case hinges on,” Daley continued, “whether the defense can prove that Cardell Hayes acted in self-defense because he was in fear of his life and the only way out reasonably was justifiable homicide by killing his aggressor, or the state, the prosecutors prove that Cardell Hayes actually set off this entire chain of events: Angry that he had been rear-ended, he then sped forward and caught up to Will Smith’s vehicle and rear-ended it even harder and started what became the fatal chain of events. That’s really what the crux of this case is: the concept of first aggressor and how that will apply under Louisiana law, which is very strict about justifiable homicide.”

As Daley explained, the defense must prove that Hayes had reason to believe that he was about to lose his life if he didn’t act first.

“Obviously it’s a tough one to prove, particularly when you look at what the coroner determined, which is that Will Smith was shot eight times, including seven in the back,” Daley said. “Most of the nine shells that were recovered, they were all from Cardell Hayes’ weapon. One of those shells found its way into the front seat of Will Smith’s car. That indicates that Cardell Hayes was close enough when he was shooting that one of the cartridges actually ejected into Will Smith’s car. So it was what the prosecutors termed an execution on the street. The defense is still trying to get jurors to consider another possibility.”

One of those possibilities is that Smith was the aggressor and that he threatened Hayes and O’Neal with his gun first. There’s just one problem.

“There is absolutely no evidence at all that’s come out so far saying that Will Smith ever actually got hold of that weapon,” Daley said, “much less brandished it or pointed it at Cardell Hayes.”


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