NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A judge refused Friday to remove the New Orleans district attorney and his staff from the prosecution of a man charged with second-degree murder in the April shooting death of retired Saints defensive end Will Smith.
John Fuller, an attorney for Cardell Hayes, wanted District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro off the case, saying he had made baseless accusations, including witness intimidation, against Fuller.
Hayes was arrested after Smith was shot to death following an automobile crash on April 9. Prosecutors say Hayes provoked a confrontation by ramming his SUV into one driven by Smith — after Smith had earlier bumped the rear of Hayes' vehicle.
The defense has argued that Smith was the aggressor and that Hayes fired in self-defense after Smith went to his own car to get his gun.
Assistant District Attorney David Pipes, arguing for Cannizzaro, said Fuller failed to present any evidence that warrants the removal. He said removal would require proof that the district attorney's office has personal animosity toward the defendant, Hayes, rather than Fuller.
State Judge Camille Buras rejected Fuller's motion, saying it was too drastic. She set a trial date of Nov. 2.
The motion to remove Cannizzaro was made last week following a story in Nola.com/The Times-Picayune on a 206-page report Cannizzaro sent to local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. In the report, Cannizzaro alleges that Fuller and others sought to intimidate witnesses and jeopardized the safety of witnesses in cases unrelated to Smith's death.
The report, which has not been made public, also alleges that Fuller is under federal investigation, the newspaper reported. The local U.S. attorney declined comment.
Hayes is also accused of attempted murder in the wounding of Smith's wife, who was shot in the legs.