May 19, 2024

Cardell Hayes has been declared guilty of manslaughter in the killing of former Ohio State and New Orleans Saints star, Will Smith Sr., almost eight years after a fatal traffic crash. Following a retrial, the verdict was delivered on Saturday, and Hayes now faces a potential sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Man convicted of manslaughter in the killing of former New Orleans Saints  star Will Smith | Tampa Bay Buccaneers |

Initially convicted in December 2016 of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter on Smith’s wife, Racquel, Hayes’ original conviction was voided due to the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw nonunanimous verdicts. After serving over four years of a 25-year sentence, he was released on bond in March 2021. The jury, as reported by The Associated Press, deliberated for approximately four hours on Friday before reaching a verdict. The retrial had experienced several delays, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Racquel Smith released a statement expressing gratitude for the support during the trial, emphasizing the desire for Hayes to be accountable for his actions. She hopes that the verdict brings them closer to that accountability. Will Smith Sr., a former first-round pick and integral part of the Saints defense, played for Ohio State from 2000-03. He was part of the national championship team in 2002 and received first-team All-American honors in 2003.

Drafted 18th overall in 2004, Smith had a successful 10-season career with the Saints and New England Patriots. He played a crucial role in New Orleans’ recovery after Hurricane Katrina and was a respected leader in the locker room. Smith earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2006 and contributed to the Saints winning their first Super Bowl title in 2009. He concluded his NFL career with impressive stats, including 469 tackles, 67.5 sacks, and 20 forced fumbles. Posthumously, Smith was added to the Saints Ring of Honor in 2019. His son, Will Smith Jr., is currently a redshirt freshman defensive tackle for the Buckeyes.

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