Sarah May
January 28, 2024

Man convicted in killing of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith

In a retrial of a man accused of killing former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith, a jury deliberated for over four hours before rendering a guilty verdict on Saturday, as Fox News reports.

Now convicted for a second time, Cardell Hayes now faces a substantial term of imprisonment as a result of the 2016 incident, which left Smith dead following a dispute that took place after a car crash.

Fateful collision leads to manslaughter charge

As Fox News explains, Smith was behind the wheel of an SUV when he was involved in a traffic collision with Hayes, and it was then that a verbal altercation ensued in which the two men argued over whether Smith's vehicle made contact with Hayes' truck on Magazine Street in the Cresent City.

Hayes was tried and convicted in late 2016 of manslaughter with regard to Smith and of attempted manslaughter for having shot and wounded Smith's wife, Racquel.

However, those convictions were obtained in a 10-2 jury vote during a time when Louisiana state law allowed for such scenarios, but before the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated non-unanimous verdicts and necessitated a retrial.

Retrial delayed, but justice served

As ESPN noted, the retrial of Hayes faced a number of delays, including those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but ultimately made its way back to court for final resolution this week.

Prosecutors reportedly rested their case on Friday, with the defense opting not to call any witnesses before the matter headed to the jury.

In the end, while evidence revealed that Smith was drunk at the time of the incident, no supporting facts were presented to support Hayes' claim that he acted in self-defense in response to aggression from the former Saints notable.

Though in the end, Hayes was acquitted on the attempted manslaughter charge related to Racquel Smith, his conviction in the death of Will Smith could result in decades in prison.

Lives ruined on both sides

Smith, who was 34 years old at the time of his death, was a defensive star on the Saints team that brought a renewed energy to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, helping take the team through a winning campaign in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Perhaps more significantly, Smith was the father of three, a fact noted by Racquel Smith who said after the trial concluded, “I can look my children in the eyes and tell them that I gave everything in pursuit of justice on behalf of Will.”

Hayes, for his part, has one son, and could receive upwards of 40 years in prison when he is sentenced by the same judge who previously gave him 25-years for killing Smith.

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