Man Who Killed NFL Star Guilty of Manslaughter
Posted: Dec 12, 2016 12:32 PM CST
New Orleans (CNN) What started out as a traffic dispute spiraled into the shooting death of a former NFL star.
Now the man who pulled the trigger could face up to 40 years in prison.
A jury found Cardell Hayes guilty Sunday of manslaughter in the April shooting death of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith. Hayes, 29, was also found guilty of attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith's wife, Racquel, who survived.
Prosecutors had charged Hayes with second-degree murder, but jurors ultimately found him guilty of lesser charges. The jury deliberated for more than five hours before reaching the verdict.
Smith and Hayes were both behind the wheel when they first crossed paths on April 9. Several blocks away from an apparent fender bender, the two men argued on a New Orleans street. It wasn't long before shots were fired.
Hayes' attorneys argued he was not the aggressor, but rather the victim of a hit-and-run.Authorities accused Hayes of rear-ending Smith's vehicle in a dispute that ended with the deadly shooting.
Both Hayes and Racquel Smith testified in the high-profile case, which drew national attention and cast a harsh spotlight on violence in New Orleans.
"I collapsed and played dead because I didn't know if he was gonna come back and shoot me," Racquel Smith said during the trial, according to CNN affiliate WVUE.
"You didn't have to do that to me," she continued. "You didn't have to shoot me. I just thank God I'm still with my babies."
Hayes faces a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to WDSU.