Emotional mother of Cardell Hayes takes stand at sentencing hearing: ‘Take me instead’

NEW ORLEANS -- The man convicted of killing former Saint Will Smith and injuring his wife, Racquel, took the stand today at his own sentencing hearing, telling the crowded courtroom that "it's like I'm dead anyway."

The court heard from Cardell Hayes, his mother, the mother of his child and other friends and family who pleaded for leniency on day two of the sentencing hearing.

An emotional Hayes told the court that he, too, knows what it's like to lose a father. His father was killed by NOPD officers in 2005.

Tiffany Lacroix, the mother of Hayes' son, also cried on the stand and said her son still struggles to understand why "daddy couldn't bring him to school."

She called Hayes a good man who "never ran to or looked for any kind of trouble."

Perhaps the most gripping testimony came from Hayes' mother, Dawn Mumphrey.

"Take me instead," she said, crying so hard that her daughter had to stand next to her while she testified. "I feel like I failed my baby. The city has failed my son. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll be punished..."

The testimony comes a day after Racquel Smith, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and others told the court about the impact of Will Smith's death and Racquel Smith's injuries.

Hayes is facing a maximum of 60 years in prison after a jury found him guilty in December on one count of manslaughter for killing Will Smith and one count of attempted manslaughter for shooting Racquel Smith.

Hayes was charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder, but a jury handed down a lesser conviction.

The shooting happened in early April 2016 when Smith, his wife and a few of their friends were leaving a restaurant in the Garden District. Video shows Smith’s Mercedes bumping the back of Hayes’ Hummer on Magazine Street, prompting Hayes to follow Smith’s vehicle and smash into its rear.

An altercation ensued, and Hayes ultimately shot Smith seven times in the back and once in the side. Hayes shot Racquel twice in the leg.

"I know he is so sorry. I know him. He was in fear for his life," said Lacroix, the mother of Hayes' son.