Cardell Hayes, the man who shot and killed former Saints player Will Smith following a traffic incident in New Orleans back in April, was found guilty of manslaughter on Sunday night. Hayes was also found guilty of attempted manslaughter for injuring Smith’s wife Racquel during the shooting. Hayes could face up to 40 years in prison on the manslaughter charge and is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
At the end of his trial, which started a week ago, Hayes took the stand and testified that, while he did retrieve a gun from his vehicle and kill Smith, he did so in self-defense. Hayes claimed Smith was the aggressor during the incident, which came just moments after the two men were involved in a minor collision. "I knew for a fact that I was going to get shot," he told the jurors in the case, while explaining that Smith told him that he was going to retrieve a gun from his own vehicle and "show you what to do with it." However, the jury in the case saw things differently after other witnesses disputed Hayes’ claim and told police that they never saw Smith with a gun in his hands.
Following the guilty verdict, Racquel Smith released this statement:
The New Orleans District Attorney’s Office released this statement:
Hayes’ attorney John Fuller said that he would "continue to pray for all of the families" involved in the case. "Not just for them going forward," he said, "but to pray for their healing at this terrible time—the Smith family and Cardell’s family."
And former Saints running back Deuce McAllister, who attended much of the trial and was in the courtroom when the jury read their verdict, reacted to the outcome of the case as well. "It’s not a win for anybody," he said. "It was a tough situation the whole time. There was no way either party could really win. I talked to Racquel…I don’t know if you ever find happiness in losing your husband. How can you ever find happiness in that?"
Hayes is due back in court for sentencing on Feb. 17.