Man who shot, killed former NFL star granted $225,000 bond

2020 Supreme Court ruling on non-unanimous verdicts overturned manslaughter conviction

The man convicted in the fatal shooting of former NFL star Will Smith in New Orleans was granted a $225,000 bond Thursday, according to reports.

Cardell Hayes, who shot Smith to death in 2016 following 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.

It was not immediately clear when he would be released.

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Hayes, who was sentenced to 25 years for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith’s wife, was found guilty in December 2016 on a 10-2 non-unanimous jury verdict.

Then in April 2020 the Supreme Court declared such verdicts unconstitutional, which vacated the 33-year-old man’s conviction.

At the initial bail hearing on March 5, Judge Camille Buras delayed her decision for nearly two weeks due to questions about whether Hayes could legally be tried on a second-degree murder charge after the first jury came back with a lesser verdict.

By Thursday, though, the judge moved ahead, setting Hayes’ bail at $175,000 on the manslaughter charge and $50,000 for attempted manslaughter.

The amount was far less than the $1.75 million set when Hayes was first arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Prosecutors plan to retry the case against Hayes, but defense attorneys first wanted him released from jail to await a new trial which is scheduled for July 12.

Hayes maintains his innocence, saying he opened fire in self-defense.

At the first trial, Hayes testified that Smith held a gun or fired it during the confrontation. Authorities later found a loaded firearm in Smith’s car but it hadn’t been used.

Smith’s widow, Racquel Smith, attended Thursday’s hearing over a Zoom video call. Two weeks earlier she pleaded with the judge not to set Hayes 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.”

Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, was a defensive leader for the New Orleans Saints team that lifted spirits in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. He helped carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory in 2010.

Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.