Smith, 44, is accused of killing Maurilio Ponce, 31, of Lancaster, Calif., in 2008. Charles Eric Honest, 42, of Los Angeles and Dewann Wesley White, 33, of Bloomington, Calif., are also charged.
The judge, in pretrial discussions, described the case as "a business deal gone wrong," the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. Police say Smith allegedly told them he and Ponce were involved in moving stolen cargo.
Smith and Honest are being tried at the same time with separate juries. Their attorneys say the two men were not involved in Ponce's death.
"There is no evidence of Anthony Smith being at the scene of the homicide ... not even that he was near there," Smith's lawyer, Michael S. Evans, said. "There will be no evidence of a fingerprint, a palm print, a footprint of Mr. Smith at that crime scene. There will be no DNA."
Smith played professional football with the Los Angeles and Oakland Raiders between 1991 and 1998.