Saints Head Coach Sean Payton testified about Smith's character and described him as an extremely smart, passionate man.
The surprise new witness produced by the defense on Wednesday was Michael Burnside of New Orleans, who took the stand insisting that he heard two different weapons fired during the traffic dispute between Hayes and Smith.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File). The defense has noted the absence of any serious criminal record and has said Hayes feared for his life when he encountered a drunken, belligerent Smith following a traffic crash on the night of April 9, 2016.
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.
Hayes was given 25 years for manslaughter for killing Will Smith and 15 years for attempted manslaughter for wounding Racquel Smith. Formal sentencing is expected later this week.
A jury convicted him of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith's wife in the leg.
Buras said the sentences will be served concurrently, and Hayes will receive credit for time served.
Fuller reminded Hayes he could be in prison for the next 60 years, based on Buras' decision, and asked how being away from his son that long would affect him.
"With 25 years, Fuller said ". he has the opportunity to be reunited with his family".
This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today.
"I will continue to shine my light for my Superman", she said. "I wish that night never happened". 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 pray for the other families of New Orleans that are dealing with the same tragedy that comes with the loss of life at the hands of senseless violence.
Hayes' mother, Dawn Mumphrey, also testified, wailing and shaking as she pleaded for mercy and forgiveness.
"That's my baby", she cried. "I'm not really there for my son".
What might have otherwise been a routine proceeding became extended hearing after his attorney, John Fuller, filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday, a day ahead of the scheduled sentencing. She referenced a 2016 recording of a prison phone conversation, played at trial, in which Hayes called Racquel Smith "a phony" and Mumphrey also disparaged her.
"Cardell Hayes took the stand and flat-out lied. That's the most offensive part of this entire process", Rodrigue added. During trial, Smith was hailed as not just a football star but as a community leader who loved New Orleans so much he chose it as his home after his retirement.
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. Surveillance video showed his Mercedes possibly bumping Hayes' Hummer, then driving off. There was no other witness and no forensic evidence to back up Hayes' claim that Smith was armed. Both hulky former athletes then got out and argued in the street.
A gun was found in Smith's SUV loaded but unfired.
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.
Hayes' defense said after the trial that Smith's popularity led to a rush to judgment by police and prosecutors. Prosecutors countered that the defense was trying to smear Smith. She presided over the trial and is familiar with all the issues raised in pre-hearing motions and a pre-sentence report she ordered.