Cardell Hayes Guilty Of Manslaughter In Shooting Of Former Saints Star Will Smith

Cardell Hayes has been found guilty of manslaughter by a jury in the killing of former New Orlean’s Saint’s defensive end Will Smith. He was also found guilty of attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Raquel Smith, the NFL player’s wife.

As reported by ESPN, Cardell Hayes testified that he shot Smith after Smith allegedly rear-ended him and then sped away. Hayes then pursued Smith for a few block before crashing into him. The two then exited their vehicles, exchanging words and getting physically violent. During the altercation, Hayes drew a 45-caliber firearm and shot Smith and his wife.

The incident took place on April 9 of this year during New Orleans’ yearly French Quarter Festival, and during his testimony on Saturday, Hayes claimed that Smith was aggressive and intoxicated. Hayes alleged that he only drew his weapon when he felt that his life was threatened, claiming that Smith was also holding a gun. Prosecutors denied the veracity of this claim.

Cardell Hayes guilty
Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office photo of Cardell Hayes. [Image by Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office/AP Images]

Hayes’ defense attorney, John Fuller, argued that he acted in self-defense and that the police rushed their investigation because of the star-status of the deceased. During his closing statement, Fuller asked the jury not to focus on Smith’s career and popularity and to take the testimony of the famous football players the prosecution brought to testify with a grain of salt. The defense insisted that it was a kill or be killed situation.

“This young man tried his best, trying to avoid doing what he had to do.”

In his testimony, Cardell Hayes claimed that he had no choice but to shoot footballer Will Smith, insisting that Smith threw a cup of alcohol at him, punched him in the face, and threatened to shoot him.

“I knew I was gonna be shot. I probably would’ve died. I knew for a fact I was gonna get shot. I didn’t want to kill Will Smith. I didn’t want to kill nobody.”

Despite his insistence, Cardell Hayes was found guilty of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Will and Raquel Smith. Hayes will receive his sentence on February 17, and he could face up to 40 years in prison. The jury that charged Hayes did not find him guilty of second-degree murder, which would carry a mandatory life sentence. According to the Guardian, Raquel Smith will testify at the sentencing hearing in the hopes of getting the maximum sentence. Her spokesperson, Lauren Renschler, stated that because Raquel will be providing a victim impact statement at the February hearing, she will not comment on the incident until after sentencing.

“The main focus of Will Smith’s family is to see Mr. Hayes justly sentenced for the murder he so callously committed.”

Racquel Smith was shot in the leg before her husband, Will Smith, was shot once in the side and then an additional seven times in the back. Assistant Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Napoli emotionally recounted that Raquel lay on the ground injured and listened as “the love of her life, the father of her children, was executed”.

Will Smith #91 Saints killed
[Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]

Former teammate Dulymus Jenod “Deuce” McAllister spoke to reporters outside of the courtroom following the verdict, saying that “to at least hear ‘guilty’ in some sense gives you relief, but at the end of the day it’s not a win.” The conviction of Cardell Hayes’ as guilty of manslaughter in the killing of former football star Will Smith is of small comfort to his friends and family, who now await the sentencing hearing in February.

[Featured Image by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]