By ArLuther Lee | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | March 5, 2021
A New Orleans judge will take another week to decide whether the man who shot and killed former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith will be granted bond after an emotional virtual court hearing Thursday.
Cardell Hayes, who gunned down Smith in 2016 after a minor car crash in the Garden District, had his conviction overturned last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that juries must reach a unanimous decision in order to convict defendants of serious crimes.
Hayes was convicted in December 2016 on a 10-2 jury verdict for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith’s wife, Racquel, who was present at Thursday’s hearing and pleaded with the judge not to set him free.
“He doesn’t deserve to get bond,” she said through tears, according to reports. “He gave me a life sentence. He gave my entire family a life sentence.”
Judge Camille Buras said she will review the case and deliver a decision for the bond March 11.
Prosecutors plan to retry the case against Hayes, but defense attorneys are fighting to get him out of jail as he awaits a new trial.
Assistant District Attorney Bob White said he will ask for conditions to be attached to the bond, including social media restrictions to prevent online bullying, which has been alleged by Smith’s widow.
During Thursday’s hearing, Racquel Smith told the judge that she has been harassed since the Hayes conviction and that she fears for her family’s safety, according to reports.
“Mrs. Smith lost her husband. Her children lost their father. She was wounded in all of this,” said Rafael Goyeneche, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Commission, according to Fox8 News in New Orleans. “The seriousness of this offense and the damage that was caused are some of the factors the judge is going to take into consideration in setting bail and in sentencing.”
Hayes, who was sentenced to 25 years for the crime, maintains he opened fire in self-defense.
The April 2020 Supreme Court decision that vacated Hayes’ conviction established a new legal precedent for non-unanimous jury verdicts, declaring them unconstitutional in two states — Louisiana and Oregon — that had allowed guilty verdicts in which some jurors cast dissenting votes.
The case before the high court involved a man named Evangelisto Ramos, who was found guilty of killing a New Orleans prostitute in 2016 after the jury voted 10-2, which was enough at the time to convict under state law.