Will Smith killing: Thursday’s ‘race to the courthouse’

Cardell Hayes is charged with second-degree murder.

(CNN) — Thursday is set to be a pivotal day in the case against Cardell Hayes, the man who authorities say killed former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith.

At 11 a.m. ET, Hayes will have a preliminary hearing to determine whether there’s probable cause to keep him in custody before he’s put on trial.

MORE: Will Smith death: Video shows cars stopping, possibly hitting, before fight

What could happen?

It could become a “race to the courthouse,” as one legal analyst put it to CNN affiliate WDSU.

The preliminary hearing will involve witness testimony that’s admissible at trial, among other things, and may reveal previously unknown details about the night of April 9, when Smith was shot to death after a traffic altercation.

But that hearing may not happen.

A grand jury is also reviewing Hayes’ case. If he is indicted before 11 a.m. ET, that may put a stop to the preliminary hearing.

Smith recalled as a force on and off the field

If prosecutors want to avoid that preliminary hearing, they’ll have to hope the grand jury indicts soon.

MORE: Police: Ex-Saint Will Smith gunned down in case of road rage

What may happen?

Hayes’ attorneys insist he was not the aggressor, but rather a victim of a hit-and-run the night Smith was shot.

Police say the two men exchanged words, after which shots were fired. Smith’s wife survived after being shot once in the right leg.

But John Fuller, one of Hayes’ attorneys, maintains that the public doesn’t know the full story yet.

Hayes stayed at the scene after the shooting and secured a witness, Fuller said.

He also maintains that an unidentified witness alleges she saw something “untoward” happen at the crime scene. And there may be potentially exculpatory video evidence of what occurred before the shooting, he says.

“We have reason to believe that a bystander recorded the events immediately prior to gunshots being fired, and that that footage was turned over to New Orleans police on the night that Mr. Smith died,” Fuller said. “We want that video … It’s going to show that my client is legally not guilty.”

Will Smith’s final hours: Time line of deadly New Orleans shooting

Hayes’ defense attorneys served multiple subpoenas to police and EMS officials who responded to Hayes’ killing and two men who dined with him that night — former Saints running back Pierre Thomas and former police officer Billy Ceravolo.

What will happen?

Regardless of what happens today to the case or the hearing, homicides will continue to plague New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said as much yesterday in a speech about reducing violence in the city.

“We are a city, we are a country, that is drunk on violence and we need to wake up to that fact,” he said. .

Since Smith’s death, six other people have died in homicides in New Orleans, but with little fanfare. The pain is felt by families of the killers as well as the victims, he said.

New Orleans violence ‘beyond the pale of reason and sanity’

Standing in front of a photo collage showing the faces of the 1,003 people killed in the six years since he became mayor, Landrieu said, “It has been rightly said about all these murders that tragedy is on both sides of the gun.”

The problem affects the whole nation. Since 1980, 650,000 people have died in gun violence in the Unites States — more than the number of Americans killed in all wars in 100 years, he said.

Locally, the city government has tripled funding for recreation and launched innovative programs in the schools, he said.

The city instituted NOLA of Life, a program designed to improve community relations, and Group Violence Reduction strategy, which aims to guide young men involved in gangs away from violence.

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