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Cardell Hayes.jpg
FILE - An April 10, 2016, file photo provided by the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office shows Cardell Hayes. Prosecutors will have to present witnesses against Hayes, who accused of killing retired New Orleans Saints player Will Smith, at a hearing Thursday, April 28, unless a grand jury indicts him first. Police say Cardell Hayes shot the star defensive end and Smith?s wife late April 9, killing Smith and hitting Racquel Smith in both legs. (Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office via AP, File)

The man who shot and killed former NFL star Will Smith was found guilty of manslaughter


The man who shot and killed former NFL star Will Smith was found guilty of manslaughter on Sunday night. Cardell Hayes, 29, was also charged with attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith's wife, Raquel. 

Hayes was found not guilty of a second-degree murder charge that would have carried a mandatory life sentence.

Hayes argued he only shot Smith because the former New Orleans Saints defensive end was drunk and pulled a gun after an auto accident. But officers determined that Smith never pulled his gun.

The details

Hayes will be sentenced on Feb. 17 for the April 9 shooting. 

Police reports showed Smith, who was legally drunk, had crashed after a night of drinking in the French Quarter. Smith hit Hayes' Hummer. Hayes then reportedly intentionally crashed into Smith's Mercedes, and a fight broke out that ultimately led to Hayes shooting Smith eight times. 

Hayes insisted Smith was armed. Investigators later found a gun in Smith's car, but there was no evidence he actually used it.

Will Smith.jpg
FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2012, file photo, New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith appears before an NFL football game against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. The trial for Cardell Hayes charged with second-degree murder in the April 9, 2016, shooting death of Smith begins with jury selection Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

Smith was part of the New Orleans Saints team that won the 2010 Super Bowl. Saints coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees, among others, attended the trial, to the disappointment of Hayes' lawyers who feared jurors were "star-struck."

I never gave a full statement to anyone.
Cardell Hayes

Hayes insisted he was trying to dial 911 when he backed into Smith's car. 

His defense team argued the parade of Saints stars attending the trial had an effect on the jury. The prosecution retorted that the defense attorney were trying to smear Smith. 

Hayes faces up to 40 years in prison.

Some observer questioned the role of race in the trial.

Smith's former teammate Deuce McAllister wasn't exactly overjoyed at the verdict.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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