NATIONAL NEWS

Closing arguments slated as retrial of ex-NFL star Smith’s killer nears an end

Jan 26, 2024, 11:33 AM

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Closing arguments were slated for Friday afternoon in the manslaughter retrial of Cardell Hayes, who fatally shot former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith following a traffic crash almost eight years ago.

Hayes was convicted in December 2016 of manslaughter in Smith’s death and attempted manslaughter for the gunshot wounding of Smith’s wife, Racquel. But the jury vote was 10-2 and the conviction was tossed after the Supreme Court outlawed nonunanimous verdicts. Hayes was released on bond after having served more than four years of a 25-year sentence.

His retrial was delayed for years for various reasons, including court closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prosecutors rested their case against Hayes on Friday and the defense chose not to call witnesses, setting the stage for closing arguments and jury deliberations.

Hayes, 36, insisted at his 2016 trial that he shot Smith in self-defense during the April 2016 confrontation. Hayes said he fired at Smith, hitting him once in the side and seven times in the back, only because he believed a drunken and belligerent Smith had retrieved a gun from his SUV. He insisted on the stand that he heard a “pop” before he started shooting and that he did not shoot at Smith’s wife, who was hit in the legs.

Evidence showed Smith was intoxicated at the time of the confrontation. But there was no witness or forensic evidence to back up Hayes’ claim that Smith had wielded or fired a weapon.

Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, was a defensive leader on the Saints team that lifted spirits in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. He helped carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Hayes, who owned a tow truck business, once played semi-pro football. He has one son.

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Closing arguments slated as retrial of ex-NFL star Smith’s killer nears an end