Will Smith’s Killer Convicted Of Manslaughter
Cardell Hayes, the man who shot and killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, is going to prison. A jury decided he was guilty of manslaughter late Sunday night.
After deliberating for several hours, the jury in Hayes' case voted 10-2 to convict him of manslaughter for shooting Smith and attempted manslaughter on Smith's widow, Racquel Smith. Hayes' argued that he feared Smith was going to shoot him and he acted in self defense, but the jury clearly found him guilty enough to put behind bars.
A statement on behalf of Smith's widow, Racquel, expressed that the family is pleased that justice has been served for the death of a beloved and admired man.
"The focus of Will Smith's family is to see Mr. Hayes justly sentenced for the murder he so callously committed. Will's dedication to his family, his love for the community and his desire to live life to the fullest will continue to inspire Racquel, Will, Jr., Lisa, Wynter and everyone else that loved him."
Smith's Saints family was also present in the courtroom, including Sean Payton, Pierre Thomas and Deuce McAllister. They offered their support to Racquel all throughout the endeavor, and McAllister shared some profound thoughts after the judgment was handed down.
Hayes was originally accused of murder in the second degree, which would have brought a mandatory life sentence, but Hayes' lawyers were able to get the charges reduced to manslaughter. While the verdict wasn't as severe as it possibly could have been, Hayes' charges could still come with up to 40 years in prison. The sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 17 at Orleans Parish Criminal District Court.
The key argument from the defense team was that Hayes feared for his life and acted in defense when Smith punched him multiple times, and they also argued that Smith's fame and popularity forced a rapid and harsh judgment on Hayes. The prosecution pointed to evidence that showed Smith was not armed with a weapon and that Hayes' responded with fatal force in return.
Smith was shot eight times, and his wife Racquel got shot through both legs when trying to get Smith away from Hayes' car, as corroborated by several witnesses.
Hayes claimed on the stand, "I knew for a fact I was going to get shot," but the evidence only showed there was a loaded gun in Smith's car, not on his body, when Hayes pulled his trigger.
Smith was part of the Saints' 2009 Super Bowl team and a large figure in the New Orleans community. To say he mill be missed is an understatement, as his death leaves a massive vacancy for his family, friends and the community of New Orleans.