According to TIME, Cardell Hayes, the man who fatally shot retired New Orleans Saints defensive leader Will Smith was convicted of manslaughter on Sunday night, ending a week-long trial in which the defendant insisted he only fired because the popular football star was drunk, violent and had grabbed a gun following a car accident on the night of April 9th.
Smith was part of the Saints team that lifted the city’s spirits in the years after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, helping to carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl win four years later.
The 29 year old Hayes faces a possible sentence of up to 40 years in prison at his sentencing on Feb. 17th. Jurors opted for the lesser charge rather than second-degree murder, which would have carried a mandatory life sentence.
Hayes also was convicted of attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith’s wife, Racquel Smith.
Because of the upcoming sentencing hearing, in which Racquel will provide a victim impact statement, she does not feel it is appropriate to comment on the facts of the case at this time,” her lawyer said in an emailed news release. “The main focus of Will Smith’s family is to see Mr. Hayes justly sentenced for the murder he so callously committed.”
Hayes’ family members and friends exited the court without commenting.
“We respect the jury’s verdict … we’ll regroup tomorrow and see what the next approach is. We continue to pray for all families.” District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said in a news release.