Jury convicts Cardell Hayes, who shot and killed ex-Saint Will Smith, of manslaughter
Hayes can be sentenced up to 40 years
After deliberating for nearly six hours on Sunday night, a New Orleans jury convicted Cardell Hayes, who shot and killed former Saints star Will Smith in April, of manslaughter. He was also convicted of attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith's widow, Racquel Smith.
He was not convicted of second-degree murder.
The jury voted 10-2 to convict him of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, according to The Times-Picayune, which added that Hayes can be sentenced to a maximum of 40 years. He will be sentenced on Feb. 17.
Cardell Hayes sentencing boundaries, because the manslaughter involved a firearm, will be from 20 years to 40 years in prison.— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) December 12, 2016
As The Times-Picayune reported, Racquel Smith, "burst into tears after the verdict was read." Had Hayes been convicted of second-degree murder, he would have been eligible for a life sentence.
Saints coach Sean Payton was there to hear the verdict. Upon arriving back in New Orleans after his team's loss to the Buccaneers, Payton went directly to the courtroom.
The jury is coming down with a verdict in trial of Will Smith's killer, Cardell Hayes. Saints coach Sean Payton is in the courtroom— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) December 12, 2016
Payton didn't speak with reporters, but Smith's ex-teammate, Deuce McAllister, did:
Deuce McAllister: It's not a win for anybody. It was a tough situation. There was no way either side could win."— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) December 12, 2016
Deuce McAllister (on Rachel Smith's reaction to verdict): "I don't know if you ever find happiness in losing your husband."— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) December 12, 2016
Deuce McAllister on whether he believes it was a fair verdict: "I wasn't on the jury. It's not up to me to decide."— Doug Mouton (@DMoutonWWL) December 12, 2016
Hayes, 29, had admitted to shooting and killing Smith, 34, but he claimed that he shot him in self-defense. The Times-Picayune's Ken Daley provided more information:
Assistant district attorneys Jason Napoli and Laura Rodrigue conceded that Smith was intoxicated -- his blood alcohol content of .235 was nearly three times the state's legal limit to drive -- and that he certainly was angry when first confronting Hayes after being rear-ended at a calculated 15 mph, shortly before 11:30 p.m. on Sophie B. Wright Place near Felicity Street. But witnesses said Racquel Smith was calming her husband and leading him away from Hayes.
The prosecutors said Will Smith had his back to the open door of his vehicle, and could not have been reaching for a holstered gun wedged inside, when Hayes shot him in the left side while he was standing upright. They said Hayes shot another round through Racquel Smith's legs, then advanced to quickly fire seven more times into the former NFL star's back. Smith died slouched into the driver's side of his vehicle.
And that differed from what Hayes testified:
Hayes testified that he believed Will Smith fired a gunshot in his direction first, from what appeared to be a black revolver. No such gun was recovered at the scene, and federal ATF firearms expert Meredith Acosta testified that authorities recovered no ballistics evidence indicating any gun but Hayes' was fired at the scene. Nine casings and nine bullets -- two recovered at the scene and seven pulled from Smith's body during his autopsy -- all matched Hayes' weapon, she said.
Be sure to read The Times-Picayune's article for an in-depth look at the proceedings.
Smith was selected by the Saints in the first round of the 2004 draft. He recorded 67.5 sacks in his career, winning a Super Bowl with the team in Feb. 2010.
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