NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said because of what his prosecution team had to overcome in the Cardell Hayes case, he's pleased with the verdict.
"There was testimony that Will Smith did get out of the vehicle in an aggressive fashion, and we also know that Mr. Smith had a blood alcohol content that was over the legal limit, so considering all the factors and hurdles that we had to overcome and considering the effort that the jury gave with regards to the case, I accept the verdict of the jury," Cannizzaro said.
The jury did not believe Hayes acted in self-defense as he claimed on the stand, when he shot and killed former Saints Player Will Smith on April 9.
Hayes told the jury he only shot Smith after Smith fired his gun during a heated traffic dispute at Sophie Wright Place and Felicity Street. Prosecutor Jason Napoli said Hayes' story didn't add up.
"The big problem with Cardell Hayes' testimony is that he essentially contradicted all of those witnesses. What the casings demonstrated is that Cardell Hayes pursued Will Smith as he was walking away. He walked right up on him and continued to fire shots into his back," Napoli said.
The jury chose to convict Hayes on the lesser charge of manslaughter for shooting Smith, and attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith's wife, Racquel.
"From our perspective, a reasonable person would say it's not necessary to use my gun. The event is over, but again, I can understand how a jury can say because of the totality of the circumstances, I can see how they can look at this as manslaughter," Cannizzaro said.
Smith's widow, Racquel, burst into tears when the verdict was read. Her attorney said she is pleased with the verdict, but had a message she wanted delivered.
"Although, Mr. Hayes does now stand convicted of this crime, it's unfortunate that another child will grow up without a father, but Mr. Hayes regardless must face the consequences," Peter Thomson said.
Member of the Hayes family also cried. Defense attorney John Fuller said he was praying for both families as he left the court.
"Continue to pray, not just for them going forward, but pray for their healing in this terrible time, for Smith's family and Cardell's family," Fuller said.
Hayes faces up to 40 years in prison for the manslaughter conviction and up to 20 years for the attempted manslaughter.
Cannizzaro said his office is preparing victim impact statements and will request that Hayes is sentenced to the full 60 years on Feb.17.