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25 years for ex-Saint's killer in 'profoundly sad' case

21 April 2017

Hayes, who was unwavering in insisting his life was in danger when he shot Smith, will get a year of credit for the time he's already served since shooting one of the city's sports heroes. Hayes had faced up to 60 years if the maximum sentences were to be served consecutively.

Racquel Smith, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse with supporters, for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Orleans Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras sentenced Hayes this afternoon.

That might push a final decision on sentencing to later in the week even if Buras rejects the motion. Hayes's lawyers are seeking a new trial.

Will Smith's convicted killer, Cardell Hayes, said he took responsibility by staying at the scene just over a year ago after he fatally shot Smith and wounded Smith's wife.

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The testimony comes a day after Racquel Smith, Saints Head Coach Sean Payton and others told the court about the impact of Will Smith's death and Racquel Smith's injuries.

Racquel Smith says she and her family are "extremely disappointed" with what she calls a lenient sentence for the man who killed her husband, New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.

Expect the defense to again characterize Hayes, a former semi-pro football player and the owner of a tow truck business, as the affable, loving father to his 6-year-old son.

Kevin O'Neal, a passenger who was in the vehicle with Cardell Hayes the night New Orleans Saints star Will Smith was killed, enters the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse for a sentencing hearing for Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of Smith, in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Hayes has never conceded that he shot Racquel Smith.

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Hayes said he repeatedly shot Smith in fear for his life, but no other witness or evidence supported his belief that Smith fired a weapon. In December, Hayes was found guilty of manslaughter and on Thursday, he found out his punishment.

Hayes' defence said after the trial that Smith's popularity led to a rush to judgment by police and prosecutors. No such gun was recovered at the scene, and federal ATF firearms expert Meredith Acosta testified that authorities recovered no ballistics evidence indicating any gun but Hayes' was sacked at the scene. The bushy-haired, bearded witness appeared near tears at times and twice let slip a profanity on the stand as he insisted that he heard two guns fired when Smith was killed.

Hayes said he does not blame Smith's family and friends for their anger and said he wishes he could take it back. The former Saints star was said to have had a high blood-alcohol level, but prosecutors do not believe he provoked the shooting. In fact, there was another shooting in the same area about 45 minutes before Smith was killed, Napoli said.

For all the expected emotion, legal experts say there is little chance Buras will be influenced by either side. "There's not going to be a whole lot that can be said". Those sentences will be served concurrently, amounting to 25 years in prison. Many things have been said regarding this case.

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