Saints Head Coach Sean Payton testified about Smith's character and described him as an extremely smart, passionate man.
Racquel Smith, center, widow of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith, leaves the Orleans Parish criminal courthouse with supporters, during a recess for a sentencing hearing for Cardell Hayes, who killed her husband and shot her, and was convicted of manslaughter in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 19, 2017.
The surprise new witness produced by the defense Wednesday was Michael Burnside of New Orleans, who took the stand insisting he heard two different weapons fired during the traffic dispute between Hayes and Smith.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File).
Hayes' defense has argued Smith threw a punch before he was shot.
The man who killed retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith and wounded his wife during a traffic dispute last year, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter in Smith's death and shooting his widow. Instead, Judge Camille Buras gave him 15 years for shooting Racquel Smith in the legs, to be served at the same time.
Cardell Hayes, 29, appeared to have caught something of a break at his December trial when a jury rejected the prosecution's push for a second-degree murder verdict, which would have meant mandatory life in prison.
Hayes was expected to face anywhere between 20 and 60 years, putting this sentence on the lighter side.
Although prosecutors said Hayes deliberately rammed Smith's vehicle, Hayes insisted he was trying to get Smith's license number when the second crash occurred.
"With 25 years, Fuller said ". he has the opportunity to be reunited with his family".
Smith's widow, Racquel, addressed the court and Hayes directly expressing grief over her loss and telling Hayes to own up to his actions.
This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family.
Racquel Smith filed one against Hayes, and Richard Hernandez, a passenger in Smith's auto that night, sued both Smith and Hayes, accusing both of aggressiveness and drunkenness, and seeking damages for personal injuries. He insisted he fired at Smith, hitting him once in the side and seven times in the back, only because he believed Smith had retrieved a gun from the SUV. "I apologize for their loss".
Hayes' mother, Dawn Mumphrey, later took the stand.
"That's my baby", she cried.
"Just lock me up to give me my son back!"
My heart is full of gratitude for the entire staff of the New Orleans District's Attorney's Office and the members of the Police Department who worked tirelessly on this case. Hayes was the first witness called.
Among those who took the stand in Hayes' defense was Dennis Martin, his former football coach at Warren Easton High school.
Smith was cast during the trial as a beloved community leader and a football hero, part of the Saints team that lifted the city's spirits after Hurricane Katrina and later won a Super Bowl. Saints coach Sean Payton testified Wednesday that had Smith survived, he would have hired him as an assistant.
The defense noted that Hayes owned a business towing cars and lacked any prior record of serious crimes. Surveillance video showed his Mercedes possibly bumping Hayes' Hummer, then driving off.
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.
A prosecutor is calling a newly found defense witness in the killing of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith "certifiably insane". Now, more than a year later, the man who pumped eight bullets into Smith is close to learning his punishment.
Smith had been drinking all day during a music festival in the French Quarter and had gone out with friends to drink more afterward, but they say his shooting death was not provoked.