Orleans DA’s office says Cardell Hayes will be retried for Will Smith shooting death, but date uncertain

Cardell Hayes will be re-tried for the April 2016 fatal shooting of former Saints star Will...
Cardell Hayes will be re-tried for the April 2016 fatal shooting of former Saints star Will Smith, the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office told a judge Tuesday (Sept. 21).
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 1:55 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Cardell Hayes will be retried for the shooting death of former Saints star Will Smith, an Orleans Parish prosecutor told a judge Tuesday (Sept. 21). But when that second trial will commence is not certain.

Hayes remains free on bond while awaiting a new trial, presently scheduled for Oct. 18, which would be the first jury trial in New Orleans’ Criminal District Court since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Defense attorney John Fuller, however, told the court at Tuesday’s hearing that he intends to file for a continuance to postpone the trial further.

Whether a sufficient jury pool can be assembled by next month also is a question Judge Camille Buras wants answered before committing to a trial date. Court records show Buras scheduled an Oct. 6 pretrial conference to determine whether the Oct. 18 trial date will be viable.

Hayes, 34, was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in December 2016, after shooting the former Saints defensive end and Smith’s wife Racquel during a heated traffic dispute eight months earlier in the Lower Garden District. The ex-NFL star died April 9 after being shot seven times in the back and once in the side.

Hayes, a tow-truck driver from New Orleans East, admitted killing the former NFL star, but contended at his first trial that the homicide was justifiable. Hayes testified that Smith, 34, shot at him first, but no other witness or forensic evidence was produced to support that claim.

Hayes was charged before his first trial with second-degree murder and attempted murder. A jury ultimately found Hayes guilty of the lesser offenses manslaughter and attempted manslaughter by votes of 10-2, at a time when Louisiana law required only 10 jurors to agree on a verdict in major felony cases. In April 2017, Buras sentenced Hayes to serve 25 years in state prison.

A subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed for the verdicts against Hayes to be vacated for not being unanimous. That left the decision on whether to retry his case to new District Attorney Jason Williams, who took office in January 2021.

Assistant District Attorney Matthew Derbes confirmed to Buras on Tuesday that Hayes would be re-tried for the fatal shooting.

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