The sentencing hearing is likely to echo the drama of Hayes's trial, including testimony from Racquel Smith about the effect the shooting had on her and her three children. "At least with 25 he has the opportunity to be reunited with his family", Hayes' lawyer, John Fuller, said outside court. Hayes, who killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith in an argument following a traffic crash, avoided a mandatory life sentence when a jury convicted him of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
Hayes' sentencing ran Wednesday and Thursday at the Orleans Parish Criminal Court.
"There are no winners here today", her statement says. "Lock me up and give me my son back".
"I will continue to shine my light for my Superman", she said.
But New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said soon afterward that he believes Hayes deserves a 60-year sentence: the maximum 40 years for Smith's death, to be followed by another 20 for attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Smith's wife Racquel.
Louisiana district Judge Camille Buras sentenced 29-year-old Cardell Hayes to 25 years for manslaughter and 15 for attempted manslaughter. The confrontation began when Smith's SUV appeared to bump Hayes' Hummer. Security video showed Smith's auto rear-ending Hayes' on Magazine Street, minutes before Hayes then crashed into Smith's vehicle a few blocks away.
A gun was found in Smith's SUV loaded but unfired.
A prosecutor is calling for maximum punishment for the killer of New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.
Hayes' sentencing may be pushed to later in the week even if the judge rules out a new trial. He insisted he was afraid for his life as Smith fired a gun at him, despite trial evidence and witness testimony indicating Smith never handled or fired his gun. Daniel is urging the judge to give less than the minimum if she feels it's excessive.
Foret agrees. "Most judges have their minds made up when they take the bench the morning of sentencing", he said.
In sometimes rambling and emotional testimony, a New Orleans man is insisting he heard gunfire from two different weapons when Will Smith was shot to death a year ago.
Hayes' defense said after the trial that Smith's popularity led to a rush to judgment by police and prosecutors. She said one of their sons is "lost" without his father. Wailing and shaking, she pleaded for mercy from the judge and begged for the Smiths to forgive her son.
Hayes, facing up to 60 years in prison, sat hunched over at the defense table as his mother sobbed uncontrollably.
The man who killed retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith has been breaking down in tears over being separated from his little boy. Hayes was the first witness called.
Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter after killing Will Smith and wounding Racquel in a confrontation that began when the Smith's vehicle apparently bumped his Humvee in traffic.
Later, he looked at Racquel Smith again and said "I apologize for your loss". The motion is expected to be argued Wednesday, the same day Hayes is scheduled to be sentenced. Saints stars past and present including coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees and former running back Deuce McAllister often dropped in to the trial to show support for Smith's friends and family.
Saints coach Sean Payton testified Wednesday that had Smith survived, he would have hired him as an assistant.
Hayes insisted at trial that it was self-defense. But he was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.
His family and friends were in the courtroom Wednesday and some may be called to the stand Thursday to support Hayes. But Hayes may still be locked away for a very long time if prosecutors get their way at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, April 19, 2017.