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Man Convicted Again Of Manslaughter In Fatal Shooting Of Former NFL Player Will Smith

Hayes was previously convicted in 2016 for the shooting but was later acquitted because the jury couldn't come to a unanimous decision.

Cardell Hayes, the man who fatally shot former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith eight years ago, was found guilty of manslaughter on the morning of Jan 27. 

The shooting, the result of a traffic accident in 2016, carries a potential sentence of 40 years now that he’s been convicted. The jury’s decision is the result of a retrial, as Hayes was acquitted of attempted manslaughter for also injuring Smith’s wife, Racquel, in the same shooting incident. The jury deliberated for over four hours. 

“We believe the correct verdict would have been ‘not guilty’ on both counts,” said Sarah Chervinsky, one of Hayes’ defense attorneys. “We intend to file an appeal and we will continue to fight for Cardell in this case.”

According to FOX 8, after getting into a traffic crash, Hayes ran into the back of Smith’s car. Smith was under the influence of alcohol, and an argument ensued that resulted in Hayes shooting Smith eight times and shooting Racquel in the leg.

Originally, Hayes was convicted at the end of 2016 of manslaughter for killing Smith and attempted manslaughter for shooting Racquel with a jury split of 10-2. The original verdict was thrown out after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed non-unanimous verdicts in 2020. Hayes was released after serving a little over four years of his 25-year sentence; his long-awaited retrial was delayed through the COVID-19 pandemic until this year.

Smith was a 34-year-old father of three children. Racquel said in an emotional statement following the conclusion of the trial, “Each time we stepped into this courthouse, we were forced to relive the worst moments of our lives. As hard as it was to sit and listen to autopsy reports and untruths about the night Will was killed, and I was shot, we came each day brave and strong because we were fighting for Will. I can look my children in the eyes and tell them that I gave everything in pursuit of justice on behalf of Will.”

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