NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The long-awaited retrial of the man whose conviction in the death of former NFL star Will Smith was thrown out because the jury verdict wasn’t unanimous was delayed without explanation Monday.
State District Judge Camille Buras announced the continuance after meeting with prosecutors and defense attorneys for Cardell Hayes in her chambers Monday morning. No new date was set but a pre-trial hearing was scheduled for Wednesday.
Hayes, 36, has insisted he shot Smith in self-defense during an April 2016 confrontation. At his December 2016 trial, he said 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 his SUV. He insisted on the stand that he heard a “pop” before he started shooting and that he did not shoot at Smith’s wife, who was hit in the legs.
There was no other witness and no forensic evidence to back up Hayes’ claim that Smith had wielded or fired a weapon.
Prosecutors in 2016 had sought a second-degree murder conviction carrying a mandatory life sentence. The jury rejected that verdict, voting 10-2 to convict Hayes of manslaughter in Smith’s death and attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Smith’s wife. He was sentenced to 25 years.
His case was on appeal when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Louisiana’s practice of allowing felony convictions by non-unanimous juries. His conviction was overturned in January 2021 and he was freed on bond in March of that year. His retrial has been delayed multiple times for a variety of reasons including the COVID-19 pandemic.