The trial of Cardell Hayes, the man accused of murdering former professional football player Will Smith in a New Orleans road rage incident, is scheduled to start on Monday, ABC News reports.
Hayes faces a second-degree murder charge for Smith’s death and an attempted second-degree murder charge for firing a shot that struck Smith’s wife in the leg. A guilty verdict carries a mandatory life sentence.
On April 9, Smith’s SUV apparently bumped the rear of Hayes’ Hummer at an intersection. Instead of stopping, Smith went around Hayes and kept driving. The Hummer caught up with Smith, and hit the SUV from the rear so hard that it shattered the rear window.
Hayes, 29, admitted to a police officer that he had a weapon upon exiting his vehicle. However, Hayes claimed that Smith struck him first. An off-duty officer was at the scene when the men were arguing and ducked when he heard gunfire.
The officer said he found Smith’s body in the front seat of his vehicle, reaching toward the glove compartment.
Hayes pleaded not guilty to the murder charge. His attorney is expected to argue self-defense.
A legal expert told the Associated Press that Hayes has a couple of factors in his favor. First, Smith, who was out with his wife and friends at a restaurant, was legally drunk, according to the toxicology report. Moreover, the police said there was a loaded gun in Smith’s vehicle, which he may have been trying to retrieve when Hayes shot him.
Hayes also faces a few obstacles to winning his case. For one thing, he shot Smith seven times in the back. Hayes’ legal team also has to overcome Smith popularity. Smith was a star on the 2006 New Orleans Saints team that rallied the city following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, as well as a player when the team won the Super Bowl.