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Sean Payton testifies at Cardell Hayes' sentencing


Hayes was convicted of fatally shooting Smith and wounding Smith's wife in a confrontation after a traffic crash past year.

Twenty-nine-year-old Cardell Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter for shooting Smith to death last year, and attempted manslaughter for the wounding of Smith's wife.

(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File).

"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".

A defense attorney for the man sentenced to 25 years for killing retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith says the sentence at least gives him a chance to be reunited with his family one day.

Prosecutors were calling for a maximum sentence of 60 years with consecutive terms of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter.

Evidence presented during Hayes' trial showed that Smith's 9 mm semi-automatic handgun was found loaded but unused inside his SUV. 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. She accused him of lying at his December trial about details of the 2016 confrontation, including his claim that Smith punched him that night.

Judge Camille Buras ordered the sentences be served concurrently. "You and Will were (both) wrong because you operated in anger", he recalled telling Hayes.

The defense has noted the absence of any serious criminal record and has said Hayes, the father of a 6-year-old son who owns a tow truck business, feared for his life when he encountered a drunken and angry Smith in the traffic dispute. At one point he was allowed to leave the courtroom to regain his composure. "I wish that night had never happened". She referenced a 2016 recording of a prison phone conversation, played at trial, in which Hayes called Racquel Smith "a phoney" and Mumphrey also disparaged her.


Hayes' mother, Dawn Mumphrey, later took the stand.

Tiffany Lacroix, the mother of Hayes' son, also cried on the stand and said her son still struggles to understand why "daddy couldn't bring him to school".

"That's my baby", she said. "Lock me up and give me my son back".

Michael Burnside, who appeared in court with wild hair, spoke in a rambling manner, twice let slip a profanity and called himself a "coward" for not coming forward earlier.

"Man, he was special", an emotional coach Sean Payton said, choking up during his lengthy tribute.

Saints coach Sean Payton and Racquel Smith testified during the sentencing Wednesday, remembering the late Smith for his contributions on and off the field and devotion to his family.

Hayes appeared to have caught something of a break at his December trial when a jury decided against second-degree murder, which would have meant mandatory life in prison. Prosecutors said Smith went to his auto to retrieve his weapon only after getting shot and died in his vehicle before he could get his hands on it.

Prosecutors have acknowledged that the former Saint had a high blood-alcohol level after spending a day at the city's annual French Quarter festival and the evening dining and drinking with friends.

He said he took responsibility for actions by staying on the scene to wait for police and talking to them once they arrived.

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