Cardell Hayes sentenced in killing of former New Orleans Saints player

In a landmark legal conclusion in New Orleans, Cardell Hayes, aged 36, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the fatal shooting of retired NFL star Will Smith.

This conclusion comes after a lengthy legal battle stemming from a tragic incident in 2016.


The recent sentencing follows a unanimous jury conviction in January, which was a retrial necessitated by a Supreme Court ruling against non-unanimous verdicts.

The Retrial and Sentencing

Initially convicted in December 2016 with a 10-2 jury vote, Hayes’ manslaughter conviction was overturned due to the Supreme Court’s decision.

However, a retrial ensued, leading to his recent unanimous conviction. Judge Camille Buras delivered the sentence, recognizing both support for Hayes and the seriousness of the incident.

The fatal confrontation occurred after Hayes’ SUV collided with Smith’s vehicle, resulting in Smith being shot eight times, seven of which were in the back.

Notably, Smith was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Emotional Testimonies and Impact

During the sentencing hearing, emotional testimonies were given by both sides.

Lisa Smith, Will Smith’s daughter, spoke about the profound impact her father’s death had on her life.

Conversely, Hayes’ mother pleaded for mercy, highlighting the shared tragedy experienced by both families.

Hayes has consistently maintained that he acted in self-defense, believing Smith had retrieved a gun from his SUV.

However, no evidence supported Hayes’ claim that Smith was armed or had fired a weapon.

Legal and Community Impact

This case has deeply resonated within the New Orleans community and beyond.

Will Smith was celebrated for his contributions to the New Orleans Saints, especially post-Hurricane Katrina.

His legacy of leadership and achievements on and off the field has left an indelible mark.

Meanwhile, Hayes, a former semi-pro football player and owner of a tow truck business, faces a substantial prison term as he and his young son confront this new reality.

The Aftermath and Conclusion

The sentencing of Cardell Hayes marks the end of a chapter fraught with legal complexities and emotional turmoil.

It underscores the enduring consequences of violence and the intricate process of seeking justice within the legal system.

Impact on the New Orleans Community

Support for Will Smith’s Legacy

Will Smith’s contributions to the New Orleans Saints and the community have been widely celebrated.

His leadership and dedication post-Hurricane Katrina earned him immense respect and admiration.

Reactions to the Sentencing

The sentencing of Cardell Hayes has stirred varied reactions within the community, reflecting on issues of justice, gun violence, and personal responsibility.

Legal Precedent and Public Perception

The case has raised discussions about the legal precedent set by the retrial and the implications for future cases involving self-defense claims.


The sentencing of Cardell Hayes for the fatal shooting of Will Smith brings a sense of closure to a long-standing legal saga.

The case, marked by complex legal maneuvers and emotional testimonies, highlights the enduring impact of violence on families and communities.

As New Orleans reflects on this chapter, the legacy of Will Smith’s contributions remains a testament to resilience and unity.

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