December 5, 2020

Carroll County murder trial underway in death of Franklin man

Herman Lee Smith, III in court Monday afternoon

Herman Lee Smith, III in court Monday afternoon

(Carrollton, GA) — Jury selection is expected to begin Tuesday morning in Carrollton at the murder trial of Herman Lee Smith, III, 21, of Bowdon.

Smith faces charges of murder, aggravated assault, and other firearm charges in the death of 21-year-old Cardarius Steagall of Franklin on November 18, 2012 at the “Club 100” nightclub, located just north of Ephesus in Carroll County.

The case is being tried in front of Judge John Simpson in Superior Courtroom C at the Carroll County Courthouse.

Jury selection is expected to begin, based from a pool of 60 people, Tuesday morning after Judge Simpson rules on an important pre-trial motion by the defense — attempting to exclude a video interview with Smith by Carroll County Sheriff’s Deputies the day after the shooting.

About three hours of footage was shown in the courtroom Monday afternoon of the interview with Smith, conducted primarily by CCSO investigators Brian Finley and David Crowe.

Smith is represented by public defenders Valerie Cook and Harry Daniels. Daniels argued that the footage should be excluded from the jury trial because of improper mirandizing of Smith by investigator Finley.

Smith’s accounts of the night’s events have since changed. The Bowdon man now argues that he acted in clear self-defense; initially he told investigators that he heard one shot before fleeing the club and running into the woods before walking back to his home located nearby the club.

In the video footage shown Monday, Smith admitted to investigators using cocaine, mollies, and drinking two kinds of alcohol on the night of the shooting.

Smith adamantly denied having any knowledge about the shooting during the video shown Monday in court, repeating  several times that he fled the club after hearing one shot. He speculated a gang conflict which had escalated two to three weeks earlier between a group from Heard County and a group from Bowdon may have contributed to the shooting while adhering to the fact he knew nothing about Steagall prior to that night.

Smith stated several times in the video that he had never owned a gun and had not fired a gun in several months.  

“I swear to God and on my grandmother’s grave, I did not shoot that boy,” said Smith in the footage. “I am not no cold-blooded killer. I am a kind sweet-hearted person.”

Investigators in the video stated they had an eyewitness come forward that held Steagall in his arms as he died that night. According to Finley, this witness said that he saw Smith shoot Steagall three times before exiting the club.

Daniels stated that evidence will show that Steagall was also armed on the night of the shooting and that his client was justifiable in killing Steagall for reasons of self defense.

Stay tuned to for continued coverage of this case which continues at 9:00 am Tuesday morning in Carrollton.




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