Trials arising from “stand your ground” incidents will be resolved in large part based upon the credibility of the key witnesses. On Saturday, the man who shot and killed former Saints defensive end Will Smith in April made some incredible claims.
Via the Associated Press, Cardell Hayes testified that Smith had a gun when Hayes opened fire. Smith’s gun however, was found inside his vehicle. Indeed, most accounts and suggestions had been that Hayes shot Smith as Smith was returning to his car to get the gun.
Hayes himself didn’t mention that Smith had a gun to the authorities on the night of the shooting.
“I never gave a full statement to anyone,” Hayes said. (With the case turning on whether Hayes believed he was about to be shot, whether Smith had a gun would seem to be an important detail.)
More surprisingly, Hayes strongly denied shooting Smith’s wife, a contention that flies in the face of the ballistics evidence indicating that the bullets that struck Raquel Smith, who survived the incident, came from Hayes’ gun.
Hayes also denied ramming his vehicle into Smith’s, another contention that contradicts other evidence.
The trial is expected to conclude on Sunday, with closing arguments and the commencement of jury deliberations.
Whatever the outcome, the glitches in the evidence prove how hard it can be for a jury to reconstruct the events that culminate in one person shooting another in supposed self-defense. In this case, however, it may not be all that difficult for the jury to reject Hayes’ testimony regarding the circumstances that led to him pulling the trigger — and in turn to reject the claim that he was acting in self defense.
Unfortunately for Hayes, he may not be lying. It’s possible that he genuinely remembers that things happened in a way that they didn’t, due simply to the stress of the situation.
Which is another reason for states with “stand your ground” laws to reconsider allowing private citizens lacking the training and experience of police officers to attempt to discern in a fog of actual or perceived threats whether it is appropriate to open fire.