According to a report from WDSU's Bun Choum and Cassie Schirm, Cardell Hayes was found guilty of manslaughter with a firearm in the 2016 murder of New Orleans Saints star Will Smith. The jury reached this verdict after deliberating for nearly five hours, although they found Hayes not guilty on the count of attempted manslaughter.

This case, which has garnered significant attention for the better part of the last decade, saw Hayes already serving five years in prison. He could now face up to 40 years for this manslaughter conviction, with the sentencing scheduled for March 27th. The verdict has sparked intense reactions (most notably outside of the courtroom), including from Hayes' cousin, New Orleans music artist Big Freedia, who expressed distrust in the system and called New Orleans "corrupted altogether."


The trial included critical testimony and evidence. Notably, ballistics experts and the coroner presented detailed analyses of the bullets and their impact on Smith's body, contributing to the understanding of the event's circumstances.

The defense's attempt to question the testimony of Pierre Thomas, a former teammate of Smith's, focused on inconsistencies and the amount of alcohol consumed that night.

Racquel Smith, Will Smith's wife who is from Lafayette, LA, and a local business owner, also took the stand. Her emotional testimony detailed the events of the night, including her own injuries and the couple's attitudes towards firearms. The defense questioned her on the extent of the altercation that occurred before the shooting.

The jury selection process for this trial was notable for its diversity and the personal experiences of crime shared by many jurors. The prosecution argued that the shooting was intentional and not justified, while Hayes' defense maintained it was an act of self-defense.

This verdict follows an initial conviction that was overturned due to a non-unanimous jury verdict, leading to this retrial.

Read more details including a recap of the events that led up to this verdict throughout the week here in the full WDSU report.

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