Will Smith case: Trial for Cardel Hayes to begin 1st week of November
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John Simerman of The Advocate reports that an Orleans Parish judge on Friday pushed back a trial date for Cardell Hayes for the April killing of former Saints defensive end Will Smith but refused to boot District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office from the case.
Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras ordered a six-week delay in the trial, until Nov. 2, following a vitriolic hearing on a bid by Hayes’ attorney, John Fuller, to recuse Cannizzaro’s office from prosecuting Hayes (Advocate).
Fuller, whom the district attorney recently accused of intimidating and potentially jeopardizing the safety of witnesses in a handful of other cases, argued that Cannizzaro’s animosity toward him has revealed a “personal interest” in prosecuting Hayes that conflicts with “the fair and impartial administration of justice” (Advocate).
Citing news reports about a 200-page memo that Cannizzaro’s office recently sent to outside law enforcement agencies, warning about Fuller’s alleged infractions, the defense attorney said the acrimony is only likely to grow should criminal charges be filed against him and prosecutors be called as witnesses (Advocate).
Fuller also claimed he spoke with an unnamed investigator who questioned him about “a potential investigation into members of this table,” motioning to where Assistant District Attorneys Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue, Tiffany Tucker and David Pipes sat. Rodrigue, a senior prosecutor, is Cannizzaro’s daughter (Advocate).
Fuller declined to elaborate in the courtroom but argued that he could become a witness against the prosecutors (Advocate).
Rodrigue and Tucker recently squared off against Fuller in the case of Donovan Carter, a Baton Rouge man whom a jury acquitted in a 2010 murder. Fuller is now the subject of a state ethics complaint after the prosecutors caught him in a mid-trial visit with two of Carter’s co-defendants without their attorneys’ consent (Advocate).
Fuller argued that Cannizzaro’s hostility toward him goes well beyond the ordinary adversarial rifts between prosecutors and defense attorneys. He cited instances in which he claimed the DA broke an office policy of not discussing pending criminal cases, specifically to take aim at him (Advocate).
“I don’t think there’s a person in this room who thinks this District Attorney’s Office has no animosity toward my office,” Fuller said (Advocate).
Pipes, a supervising prosecutor in Cannizzaro’s office, did not dispute that point but said it wasn’t enough to have the District Attorney’s Office taken off the case (Advocate).
Pipes noted that state law allows for the recusal of a DA in cases where there is “personal interest” against a defendant, which in this case would mean Hayes, not his lawyer. “Frankly, they have not shown that,” Pipes said. “They cannot show that” (Advocate).
Hayes, 28, sat quietly in court as the legal fireworks erupted. He is accused of murder for fatally shooting Smith after an altercation over a fender bender in the Lower Garden District; attempted murder for the non-fatal shooting of Smith’s wife, Racquel; and two other counts related to his alleged road rage on Sophie Wright Place (Advocate).
Fuller has filed similar recusal motions recently in about a dozen of his Orleans Parish cases, though he has said he intends to file them in all of the more than 100 cases on his roster at the Criminal District Court building at Tulane Avenue and South Broad Street (Advocate).
So far, he hasn’t had much luck. Only one judge, Benedict Willard, has agreed to recuse Cannizzaro’s office, in a decision now on appeal. Fuller’s appeal of another judge’s denial of a similar motion was turned away recently by the Louisiana Supreme Court (Advocate).
Pipes argued that Fuller is “selectively picking and choosing cases around the building to file these motions. This is being strategically done for tactical purposes, not because there’s any evidence or basis for it” (Advocate).
Pipes also said the DA’ s Office hasn’t directly publicized its voluminous memo to various law enforcement agencies about Fuller; rather, media outlets have obtained it elsewhere, he said (Advocate).
“We have not held a press conference on the courthouse steps to detail every allegation in the memorandum of all the wrongdoing we believe he may or may not have committed,” Pipes said of Fuller (Advocate).
“What we have done is notify law enforcement … of a potential danger to witnesses” or confidential informants from Fuller’s conduct, Pipes said (Advocate).
Buras, a former senior prosecutor in Orleans Parish under former District Attorney Harry Connick, swiftly declined to bar Cannizzaro’s office from prosecuting Hayes, calling it “the most drastic remedy in the case” (Advocate).
Peter Thomson, an attorney for the Smith family who attended Friday’s hearing, has described Hayes as a “cold-blooded murderer” who, according to Racquel Smith, pumped bullet after .45-caliber bullet into the former Saint’s body, then stood over it and yelled (Advocate).
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