On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction of Cardell Hayes. Hayes had been convicted by a jury In New Orleans in 2016 of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints football player, and Proctor High School star, Will Smith. The jury had found Hayes guilty by a vote of 10 to 2. The Supreme Court has ruled that non unanimous verdicts are unconstitutional in criminal cases.
Although the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of split verdicts came in 2020, it is applicable to the Hayes case because he had not yet exhausted his appeals.
Smith was shot and killed by Hayes on April 9, 2016 after the SUV Smith was driving rear ended the vehicle Hayes was driving. Following a brief vehicle pursuit, the two men confronted each other. During that confrontation, Smith’s wife Racquel was shot and wounded. Hayes contended that Smith shot at him first with a gun that was taken away from the scene before police arrived. Hayes was charged with murder and attempted murder but was only convicted on manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. Both convictions by the same 10 – 2 margin.
The Supreme Court ruling does not exonerate Hayes. The newly elected District Attorney of Orleans parish must now decide whether or not to retry Hayes on the manslaughter and attempted manslaughter charges.