Tag Archives: Black Box Data

Car Crash

Expert Challenged in Will Smith Murder Trial

The defense team of the man charged with the murder of New Orleans Saints football star Will Smith challenged Michael Sunseri, a crash reconstruction expert called by the prosecution, to discuss “black box” data. Criminal District Judge Camille Buras allowed him to testify as an expert witness.

The Incident

On April 9, 2015, New Orleans Saints football player Will Smith was shot and killed. Cardell Hayes, 29, who fatally shot Smith, said that he shot Smith in self-defense — and only after a drunken, irate Smith retrieved a gun from his car following a car crash. Hayes claimed that, “I knew for a fact that I was going to get shot” and that he heard a sound that sounded like a gunshot before he fired.

The Trial

At trial, Hayes’ defense team accused former NOPD Capt. Billy Ceravolo of removing Will Smith’s gun from his SUV while he was investigating Smith’s slaying.

Captain Ceravolo testified under oath that he did no such thing when prosecutor Jason Napoli asked him “point blank” if he tampered with any evidence. Ceravolo testified that he’s been accused of many things, “I’ve taken guns, moved guns, kicked guns into the drain…I’ve been accused of everything.”

Prosecutors showed a jury surveillance video that recorded Ceravolo at the Windsor Court waiting for Smith, his wife, former Saints player Pierre Thomas and other friends to arrive for a night at the hotel bar. The video reportedly showed Ceravolo leaving the hotel to head to the scene after Thomas called to tell him Smith had been shot and killed.

Defense attorney John Fuller questioned Ceravolo, asking him if he was a “fixer” sent to clean up the scene to protect Smith’s reputation. Fuller claims that there was a witness at the scene who saw Ceravolo tamper with the scene.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli said that the FBI contacted Fuller to look for the “mystery witness” who claimed Ceravolo took Smith’s gun. Napoli noted that the mystery witness has never been made available, and the defense was never able to prove any tampering.

Ceravolo’s attorney, Tanya Picou Faia, described the accusations as a sideshow by Fuller and stressed that her client did not tamper with any evidence. “It’s a very serious crime that he was accused of… What rubbed salt in the wounds is that this was the murder scene of one of his best friends.”

The Expert

The prosecution called Michael Sunseri as an expert witness. Sunseri is a crash reconstruction expert called to discuss “black box” data from the Mercedes and Hummer. The defense team challenged Sunseri, but Criminal District Judge Camille Buras  allowed him to testify as an expert witness.

According to his website, Sunseri has investigated and reported over 800 motor vehicle accidents for the Louisiana State Police (1973-1987); supervised the investigation, including the reconstruction, of approximately 500 serious injury or fatal motor vehicle accidents (1979-1994); and consulted privately in over one thousand accident cases since 1982 in the area of accident reconstruction.