Killer of former Saint Will Smith convicted of manslaughter

Cardell Hayes, who shot and killed former Saints defensive end Will Smith in 2016, has been found guilty of manslaughter.

A jury convicted Hayes of manslaughter but acquitted him of attempted manslaughter for shooting and injuring Smith's wife, Racquel Smith, in the same incident.

Hayes was initially convicted of manslaughter in 2016 and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but four years later the Supreme Court overturned that conviction because the jury voted 10-2 to convict Hayes, and the Court ruled that convictions must be unanimous. As a result, Hayes has been free for the last four years while awaiting another trial.

Racquel Smith issued a statement describing the burden the legal proceedings have been on her family and expressing hope that Hayes, who claims he shot Smith in self-defense, will take responsibility for his actions.

"Each time we stepped into this courthouse, we were forced to relive the worst moments of our lives," she said. "As hard as it was to sit and listen to autopsy reports and untruths about the night Will was killed, and I was shot, we came each day brave and strong because we were fighting for Will. I can look my children in the eyes and tell them that I gave everything in pursuit of justice on behalf of Will."

Hayes was taken into custody after the verdict was read and awaits a sentence that could be as long as 40 years in prison.

Smith was a first-round draft pick of the Saints in 2004 who was a Pro Bowler, a member of their Super Bowl XLIV-winning team, and a member of the Saints' Hall of Fame.