Cardell Hayes Sentenced to 25 Years for Killing Former NFL Player Will Smith

Cardell Hayes sentenced to 25 years for fatally shooting ex-NFL star Will Smith in 2016. The high-profile case sparked discussions on gun violence and self-defense laws in New Orleans.

author-image
Trim Correspondents
Updated On
New Update
Cardell Hayes Sentenced to 25 Years for Killing Former NFL Player Will Smith

Cardell Hayes Sentenced to 25 Years for Killing Former NFL Player Will Smith

Cardell Hayes, the man who fatally shot former NFL star Will Smith during a confrontation following a car crash in 2016, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday in a New Orleans courtroom. This was the second time Hayes faced sentencing for Smith's death.

Hayes was initially convicted of manslaughter in December 2016 and sentenced to 25 years, but the conviction was later overturned due to a non-unanimous jury verdict. After a new trial, Hayes was convicted by a unanimous jury in January 2024, rejecting his defense arguments that he fired in self-defense.

Judge Camille Buras acknowledged Hayes' strong community and family support, as well as his model behavior in prison, but noted that both Hayes and his companion were armed when they exited their vehicle after the crash, and that Smith was unarmed as he retreated to his car. Smith was shot eight times, seven in the back, during the incident.

Smith's daughter Lisa, who was a teenager at the time, spoke in court, saying that Hayes had ruined her life by taking her father away. "Mr. Hayes, you ruined my life. You took my father away from me," she said.

Hayes has maintained that he fired in self-defense, believing Smith had reached for a gun, but there was no evidence to support this claim. The overturned verdict also included an attempted manslaughter conviction for the wounding of Smith's wife Racquel, but Hayes was acquitted of that charge in the second trial.

Why this matters: The high-profile case shocked the city of New Orleans and sparked discussions about gun violence and self-defense laws. Will Smith was a beloved figure in the community, having played for the New Orleans Saints for nine seasons and helping the team win a Super Bowl in 2010.

Hayes has already served over four years in prison, for which he will receive credit towards his 25-year sentence. Smith's family and friends, including former Saints teammates, have expressed their grief and called for justice in the case. The sentencing brings closure to a lengthy legal process that has deeply affected both the Smith and Hayes families.

Key Takeaways

  • Cardell Hayes sentenced to 25 years for killing ex-NFL star Will Smith in 2016.
  • Hayes' initial manslaughter conviction overturned due to non-unanimous jury, later re-convicted.
  • Smith's daughter Lisa said Hayes "ruined my life" by taking her father away.
  • Hayes claimed self-defense, but no evidence supported this; acquitted of wounding Smith's wife.
  • Case shocked New Orleans, sparked discussions on gun violence and self-defense laws.