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Cardell Hayes, man convicted of killing Saints star Will Smith, out on bail

The US Supreme Court threw out Cardell Hayes' conviction after ruling non-unanimous jury convictions unconstitutional.

NEW ORLEANS — The man convicted by a split jury of fatally shooting Saints star Will Smith is out of prison.

Cardell Hayes made bond Thursday evening after spending the nearly 5 years in jail.

Hayes was convict four years ago of killing Will Smith and wounding his wife Racquel during a road-rage incident on Magazine Street. 

Prosecutors say Hayes shot Smith eight times and wounded Racquel after a fender bender turned into a road rage confrontation.

At trial, Hayes testified in his own defense, saying he shot in self-defense.

The jury returned a split verdict of manslaughter in Smith’s killing and attempted manslaughter for striking Racquel Smith with a bullet wound to the leg. After the Supreme Court struck down non-unanimous verdicts in April 2020, it also determined that the ruling should be applied retroactively.

Hayes’ conviction and 25-year sentence were tossed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Thursday, Judge Camille Buras set Hayes bond at $225,000. That ruling came two weeks after the initial bond hearing. Judge Buras chose the delay her ruling after emotional testimony from Smith's widow, Racquel.

At the March 4 hearing, Racquel Smith testified through tears on a Zoom call, saying she doesn't think Hayes should have the chance to walk free.

“I promised my kids on the day that he was sentenced that they didn't have to worry about this man," Racquel Smith told the court. "He doesn’t deserve to get bond. ... He gave my entire family a life sentence.”

This is a developing story. Stick with WWLTV.com and watch the Eyewitness News at 5, 6, and 10 for the latest information. 

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