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Shooter of Former New Orleans Saints Star Convicted
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New Orleans Will Smith

Summary: After fatally shooting New Orleans Saints star Will Smith after a traffic incident, shooter Cardell Hayes was convicted by a jury of manslaughter.

Former New Orleans Saints defensive leader Will Smith’s family is seeing justice. Cardell Hayes, 29, was convicted of manslaughter for fatally shooting Smith back in April. The trial went on for a week with Hayes claiming the fired his gun at Smith after their vehicles crashed because Smith was drunk, violent, and reached for his own gun.


Smith helped lift the New Orleans team and city after the Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005. The team went on to enjoy a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl win four years later. Coach Sean Payton was at the courthouse to hear the verdict. Former Saints safety Steve Gleason, who is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease, also attended part of the trial to hear the closing arguments. Several other former and present Saints members were in attendance during parts of the trial.

Hayes faces up to 40 years in prison at his sentencing on February 17. The jury chose the lesser-charge of second-degree murder, eliminating the mandatory life sentence option. He was also slammed with attempted manslaughter for injuring Smith’s wife Racquel.

Hayes’ defense lawyers argued that Smith’s popularity affected his clients treatment by police, prosecutors, and the public. He believed he was going to be shot if he did not act first. A loaded gun was found in Smith’s car but there was no evidence that Smith reached for it, especially to fire it. Lab results showed that Smith was intoxicated after spending the evening at the city’s annual French Quarter Festival.

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Smith, his wife, and two other passengers were driving toward downtown from the Lowed Garden District when his car may have lightly bumped Hayes’ Hummer. Hayes then rammed his car into Smith’s Mercedes SUV, although he claims he was trying to call 911 and failed to realize how close his car was to Smith’s. The two parties then turned to physically fighting.

During the sentence hearing, Racquel will provide a victim impact statement.

Do you think Smith’s intoxicated state and thus unpredictability should be considered in the sentencing? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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