Cardell Hayes plans to plead guilty before retrial for Will Smith killing, report says

Cardell Hayes, 36, served less than five years of a 25-year sentence for manslaughter before...
Cardell Hayes, 36, served less than five years of a 25-year sentence for manslaughter before his conviction was vacated because of a non-unanimous jury verdict.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 3:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Cardell Hayes, who admittedly shot former Saints star Will Smith to death during an April 2016 traffic dispute in the Lower Garden District, plans to avoid a second trial next week by pleading guilty to manslaughter, according to a published report.

The New Orleans Advocate, citing “two sources with knowledge of the plea deal,” said Hayes would enter the plea Monday, when his retrial is scheduled. Neither defense attorney John Fuller nor the office of Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams would confirm to Fox 8 that a plea agreement has been reached.

Sentencing would be up to Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras, the same judge who sentenced Hayes to serve 25 of a possible 40 years when he first was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in December 2016.

That conviction and sentence eventually was vacated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, because Hayes was convicted by a non-unanimous jury. That panel voted 10-2 to convict him of the lesser crime of manslaughter at the end of a nine-day murder trial.

Hayes served less than five years of the sentence and has been free on bond since March 2021 awaiting a second trial. After several delays, that trial was set to begin next Monday.

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