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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cardell Hayes’ convictions upheld by appeals court in Will Smith shooting death


Cardell Hayes is appealing his conviction of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.New Orleans Police investigate the scene where former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was shot to death in a Mercedes SUV on Camp Street in the lower Garden District on Saturday night, April 9, 2016. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)Former NOPD Captain Billy Ceravolo (R) who had dined with Will Smith before Smith was gunned down on Camp Street watches as alleged shooter Cardell Hayes is taken into custody. Ceravolo was once named in a lawsuit brought by the family of Cardell Hayes for the 2005 shooting death of Hayes' father. New Orleans Police investigate the scene where former Saints defensive end Will Smith was shot to death and Smith's wife Racquel was wounded in a Mercedes SUV on Camp Street in the lower Garden District on Saturday night, April 9, 2016. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)Paramedics with New Orleans EMS prepare to transport Racquel Smith who was shot in the attack that killed her husband, former Saints defensive end Will Smith on Camp Street in the lower Garden District on Saturday night, April 9, 2016. (Photo by Michael DeMocker, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

The manslaughter conviction of Cardell Hayes was upheld by a state appeals court on Wednesday (March 27) in connection to the April 2016 fatal shooting of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith, court records show.

The case against Hayes, himself a high school football standout who played for the local football league, Crescent City Kings, drew national attention since the night of his arrest at the scene on April 9, 2016. Hayes and his attorneys never denied he shot Smith dead that night, but contended in statements and at trial that he fired the shots in self-defense.

The shooting occurred amid a chaotic scene, witnesses described at trial, after a traffic crash prompted an argument. Hayes’ Hummer H2 struck the back of Smith’s Mercedes Benz SUV, and people in both vehicles, as well as others traveling with Smith, got out of their cars. Smith, a team captain when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2011, was driving with his wife, Racquel, in the front passenger seat, and two friends in the back when the Hummer struck the Mercedes at the corner of Sophie B. Wright Place and Felicity Street.

Racquel was also shot, and the jury also convicted Hayes of attempted first-degree murder in connection to her injuries.

Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office sought second-degree murder charges, and thus a life sentence, for Hayes. But a split jury, in a 10-2 vote, on Dec. 12, 2016, found him guilty of the lesser offense of manslaughter -- a verdict that drew emotional responses by supporters of both sides.

Orleans District Criminal Court Judge Camille Buras sentenced Hayes to 25 years in prison.

Louisiana 4th District Court of Appeal Judges Terri Love, Joy Cossich Lobrano and Sandra Cabrina Jenkins affirmed the convictions against Hayes in a unanimous decision.

Stay with with NOLA.com for more on this developing story.

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Emily Lane covers criminal justice in New Orleans for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Reach her at elane@nola.com. Follow her on Twitter (@emilymlane) or Facebook.
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