Defendant Found Guilty Of Manslaughter In Death Of Will Smith
Cardell Hayes was found guilty Sunday of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, as well as attempted manslaughter for injuring Smith's wife, Racquel, on Sunday.
The verdict, which came after 5-and-a-half-hours of deliberation, ended a weeklong trial in which the 28-year old Hayes insisted he fired only in self-defense.
The manslaughter charge carries up to 40 years. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 17 in New Orleans.
The jury dismissed a second-degree murder charge, which would have carried a mandatory life sentence, as well as a charge of attempted second-degree murder.
Smith was driving with a group of friends in several cars following a night out when his SUV reportedly lightly bumped Hayes' Hummer, before Smith drove off, with Hayes in pursuit.
Telling the jury that he was trying to dial 911 to report a hit-and-run, Hayes said he was unaware they he hit Smith's vehicle several blocks later because he didn't know how close he was to it.
Hayes insisted he fired only because Smith was drunk and violent, and that he had grabbed a gun, following a traffic crash on the fateful night back in April.
A pathologist’s report showed the 34-year old Smith was legally drunk at the incident, which took place in the Lower Garden District.
Smith was shot eight times, while his wife was shot through both legs.
Prosecutors said evidence showed that Smith never armed himself and that Hayes was not justified in firing, acknowledging that a loaded gun was found in Smith's car, but that there was no evidence that it was ever fired, or that Smith had even grabbed it.
A native of Queens, New York, Smith, who was the 18th-overall pick of the 2004 NFL Draft, played ten years for the Saints, from 2004-2013, including their 2009 Super Bowl season.
In 9 seasons in the NFL, all with the Saints, Smith played in 139 games, including 120 as a starter, accumulating 324 total tackles, including 57.5 sacks.