Cardell Hayes Found Guilty of Manslaughter in Shooting Death of Will Smith
A New Orleans jury has found Cardell Hayes guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of former Saints defensive end Will Smith.
The verdict, which carries a sentence of up to 40 years, was reached after approximately 5½ hours of deliberation on Sunday. It brings to an end the week-long trial over the death of the 34-year-old former NFL player. Sentencing is now scheduled for February 17 at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
Hayes shot Smith eight times on April 9 during an altercation that started with a hit-and-run. Smith, who was legally drunk, is believed to have lightly bumped into Hayes’s Hummer with his Mercedes SUV. After that, Hayes crashed into Smith. Prosecutors alleged that the second collision was intentional. Hayes testified that he accidentally crashed into Smith’s car while trying to dial 911 to report the hit-and-run.
Hayes testified that he feared for his life during the ensuing altercation.
“I knew for a fact that I was going to get shot,” Hayes told the jury after taking the stand in his own defense on Saturday. He said he saw a gun and that he heard what he believes was a gunshot before he began firing.
Police say Smith did have a loaded gun, but it was in the car and was not fired.
The jury threw out a charge of second-degree murder. The manslaughter conviction indicates Hayes intended to kill Smith, but that the crime was committed in a sudden passion sufficient to deprive the average person of self-control or rational reflection.
Will Smith was part of the New Orleans Saints team that helped lift the city’s spirits after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina by winning the Super Bowl in 2010. His death rocked the community, and a number of his former teammates and coaches, including Saints coach Sean Payton, were in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Hat Tip – [ESPN]