Widow of Saints star Will Smith upset at killer's 25 years

Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday for killing former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith and wounding Smith's wife after a traffic accident in April 2016.

Hayes was convicted on both counts with a 10-2 vote after a six-hour jury deliberation back in December, while he was acquitted of a second-degree murder charge.

Hayes, 29, also received a 15-year sentence for attempted manslaughter in the shooting of Racquel Smith, wife of the former defensive end.

Buras said the sentences will be served concurrently, and Hayes will receive credit for time served.

Judge Camille Buras denied a new trial for Hayes on Wednesday and is expected to impose a sentence no later than Friday.

A spokesman for district attorney Leon Canizzaro's office said the D.A. and the Smith family are disappointed in the length of the sentence. Saints stars past and present — including coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and former running back Deuce McAllister — often dropped in to the trial to show support for Smith's friends and family. The defense has noted the absence of any serious criminal record and has said Hayes feared for his life when he encountered a drunken, belligerent Smith following a traffic crash on the night of April 9, 2016.

Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter after killing Will Smith and wounding Racquel in a confrontation that began when the Smith's auto apparently bumped his Humvee in traffic. Hayes had argued he acted in self-defense when he shot Smith.

Racquel Smith also became tearful, and expressed her bitterness the day before as she stared down the man who shot her in the legs and repeatedly fired into her husband's back.

Hayes' mother, his girlfriend and Hayes himself spoke Thursday before the judge made her ruling.

Later, under tough questioning by a prosecutor, he referred to the Smiths, saying, "I apologize for their loss".

Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, arrives at the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse on Thursday for the sentencing hearing.

On cross-examination by Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli, Hayes said he does not know how Racquel Smith was shot. "I wish that night never happened".

The district attorney said several things probably led to that decision: Testimony that a hit-and-run involving the two men happened before the shooting, that Smith got out of his vehicle in an aggressive manner and that Smith had a blood-alcohol content well above the legal level. He insisted he was afraid for his life as Smith fired a gun at him, despite trial evidence and witness testimony indicating Smith never handled or fired his gun.

Henry Jolly, a friend of Cardell Hayes was next to testify. His wife was hit in the legs. The judge ultimately rejected a defense motion for a retrial.

  • Leroy Wright