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Man convicted of killing Saints star Will Smith now out on bail

2 years 1 week 4 days ago Friday, March 19 2021 Mar 19, 2021 March 19, 2021 5:53 AM March 19, 2021 in News
Source: WWL-TV
Cardell Hayes, convicted of killing former NFL player Will Smith, makes bond on Thursday, March 18, 2021.

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly five years after Cardell Hayes and former NFL player Will Smith were involved in an altercation that led to Smith's death, Hayes has been released from jail.

WWL-TV reports that Hayes, convicted of fatally shooting Smith in 2016, made bond Thursday evening after spending the nearly five years in jail.

The incident that resulted in the 34-year-year old former Saints player's death occurred on Magazine Street in New Orleans, and has been labeled as an act of road rage.

Apparently, Smith's SUV hit the vehicle Hayes, then 28 years of age, was driving.

After this, the two men reportedly engaged in a confrontation that escalated from exchanging harsh words to Hayes producing a handgun and firing it at least eight times.

The gunshots injured Smith's wife, who was also present, and killed Smith.

Hayes and a passenger who was in his vehicle during the incident told authorities the shots were fired in self-defense. In addition to this, a postmortem toxicology report revealed that Smith had a blood alcohol content of .235 on the night of the incident, which is nearly three times the legal limit in Louisiana.

After Hayes' trial, the jury returned a split verdict of manslaughter in Smith’s killing and attempted manslaughter for striking Smith's wife, Racquel, with a bullet wound to the leg.

WWL-TV reports that after the Supreme Court struck down non-unanimous verdicts in April 2020, it also determined that the ruling should be applied retroactively.

So, Hayes’ conviction and 25-year sentence were tossed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Thursday, Judge Camille Buras set Hayes bond at $225,000, a ruling that came two weeks after the initial bond hearing. WWL-TV notes that Judge Buras chose the delay her ruling after emotional testimony from Smith's widow, Racquel.

At the March 4 hearing, Smith's widow testified through tears on a Zoom call, saying she doesn't think Hayes should be allowed to walk free.

“I promised my kids on the day that he was sentenced that they didn't have to worry about this man," Racquel Smith told the court. "He doesn’t deserve to get bond. ... He gave my entire family a life sentence.”

Smith would have turned 39 years of age on March 4 of this year. 

Hayes' retrial is tentatively scheduled for July 12.

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