December 1, 2020

Letter to the Editor: Unhappy with the verdict

Dear Editor,

On Wednesday, August 7th, 2013, 21-year-old resident of Bowdon, GA, Herman Lee Smith, was wrongfully convicted in the murder of Franklin, GA resident Cardarius Steagall.

Smith’s conviction came after public defender Harry Daniels was said to have brought forth compelling evidence that revealed Smith was acting in self-defense against Steagall who was drawing his loaded gun when he was shot by Smith during a party last November.

The night of the incident Steagall, a convicted felon and known gang member who was heavily intoxicated, was said to have been acting peculiar and exposing his gun several times throughout the night. According to a witness Steagall threaten Smith that very same night with his gun. Also according to another witness Steagall had his gun on his lap with his hand on it just prior to the shooting and was staring at a gentleman on the dance floor who was his intended “target.”

According to witnesses Steagall was fueled with anger when he saw the mother of his child/ex-girlfriend dancing with this gentleman whom he had a prior altercation with at the same establishment. It was stated that shortly after the tension rose between Steagall and this gentleman, Steagall went outside of the party and came back in with a gun in hand.

Steagall made his way back inside of the party with his gun in his hand and behind his back despite the efforts of several of his friends trying to force him not to re-enter the party. Steagall re-entered with intensions on shooting the gentleman that had been dancing with the mother of his child/ex-girlfriend. “From what we have been told its evident that boy was there to kill the one that had been messing with his girlfriend” CCSO Inv. Brian Finley stated.

Smith did not know either of the two men, but he was standing directly beside Steagall’s intended “target.” When Steagall drew his gun at his “target” Smith was said to be unsure if Steagall was attempting to shoot him or not.

Following this uncertainty it was said that Smith felt as though he needed to defend himself against the armed Steagall. Smith stated that he began carrying a gun because of an incident that happened a few weeks prior where he was fought by several individuals in which there was a gun involved.

This fighting altercation prompted Smith to obtain the gun in order to protect himself. So in the incident with Steagall, it was said Smith defended himself against a gunman who he believed was pulling a gun on him.

This is said to be a case where the convicted is in fact the victim of a wrongful conviction. It was stated that there was clear and concise evidence that the defendant acted solely in self-defense.

The evidence brought forth by public defender Harry Daniels compelled a female juror to hold for 15 hours with a vote of not guilty. However, it was said that secondary to the pressure from the courts and due to the fact Smith initially denied that he was the shooter and admitted he ingested cocaine before going to the party; she changed her vote to finding Herman Lee Smith guilty in the murder of Cardarius Steagall.

“It’s always hard when somebody gets found guilty of something and you truly believe in their innocence,” public defender Harry Daniels said. “The evidence we presented in the case, to me, showed a clear case of self-defense” Daniels also stated. Daniels said the jury did “the best job they could do,” but he felt “they got it wrong.”

Deon L. Stuckey

Duluth, GA




  2. Amber N Smith says

    The views expressed by Deon Stuckey were grossly inaccurate and showed an immense disregard for the family of Cardarius Steagall. The evidence does not support the contentions made by Stuckey, and criminal cases are not won based on opinions. Foremost, it is essential to note that the job of a defense attorney is to defend his or her client. So, of course Herman Smith’s attorney would make the comment that his client was innocent. However, the jury disagreed. That aside, the comments and opinions that Stuckey set forth are not only disrespectful to the actual victim in this case but are also incorrect.

    There is no evidence that Cardarius was either a convicted felon or gang member. On the contrary, Herman Smith also had previously been charged with other shooting. Cardarius did have a gun. However, this gun was still in his back pocket when he was found dead after Herman Smith shot and killed him. At what point between being shot, from behind, did Cardarius have time to place the gun back in his pocket? Let’s assume for argument’s sake that Cardarius did pull out and wave his gun at Smith at some point earlier in the night. Stuckey’s points still lack merit even in that scenario. There is a time factor to self-defense. That time factor is “imminence’; the one claiming self-defense must believe that he or she is in danger of imminent harm or death. What is the definition of imminent? The definition of “imminent” is “liable to happen soon; impending.” In other words, it means something that is about to happen immediately or at least in the very near future. If Cardarius brandished a gun towards Herman Smith, and then Smith shot him, Stuckey might have a point. In such a case, one could make the argument that Smith felt that his life was in imminent danger. However, that hypothetical is not reality. The reality that night is that when Smith shot Steagall, Steagall was alone on the dance floor with his back turned. The evidence supports this. What imminent danger does a man with his back turned pose? None.

    Instead, Smith saw a moment of vulnerability on Steagal’s part and decided to act. The sad part is that two lives are lost here. Cardarius is gone forever, and Herman’s life will be spent in jail. These are two young men who had an entire life ahead of them and because of bad decisions met two very different yet equally sad fates. Articles like the one written by Stuckey do not help send a positive message to anyone involved in this or similar situations. You do not accomplish anything by painting Herman as a victim just because you want to see him as one.

    Amber Smith, JD
    Washington, DC

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