NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – Cardell Hayes, 29, has been found guilty of manslaughter in the death of former New Orleans Saint Will Smith and attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith’s wife Racquel after a road rage incident last April.
First, Hayes was found not guilty on one count of criminal damage to property, and the court room filled with gasps on both sides followed by sobs from Racquel Smith.
Shortly after Hayes was pronounced guilty of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, to which Hayes’ family responded emotionally as well.
Both guilty verdicts differ from the original charges of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder that Hayes faced. Manslaughter is a lesser sentence. It carries a minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum of 40 years. Second-degree murder carries a life sentence.
The jury voted 10 to 2 to convict Hayes of manslaughter and attempted man-slaughter just after 11 p.m. Sunday.
Hayes’ conviction brings to an end a trial that included six days of testimony by more than 20 witnesses. The jury was ordered to be sequestered after a request by prosecutors because of the media attention on the case.
Hayes will be sentenced on February 17, 2017 and could face up to 40 years.
After several contradicting statements made by the defense and a powerful closing argument made by the prosecutors, the length of the sentence will come down to Judge Camille Buras in early 2017.
“I can just tell you, if you go to trial and you take the stand and you tell a story that is not particularly credible, Judge Buras’s intelligence was probably insulted by Cardell Hayes’ story and some of John Fulle’rs antics in the case,” commented legal analyst Craig Mordock after the verdict. “She’s going to sentence him I think 30 years would be a starting point, and he may even get the max.”
Former teammates and friends – including Saints Head Coach Sean Payton, Quarterback Drew Brees, Duece McAllister, Steve Gleason, and Pierre Thomas – were all in court showing support for Will Smith’s family during the trial.