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New trial sought in Saints star's death over split verdict

NEW ORLEANS — The man convicted of killing former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith has asked for a new trial because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that split verdicts are unconstitutional in state criminal cases.

Appeal attorney Eric Santana filed a request Wednesday asking for a new trial for Cardell Hayes based on the 6-3 decision handed down Monday, news outlets reported.

Jurors split 10-2 when they found Hayes guilty in 2017 of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in a shooting that also injured Smith's wife, Raquel Smith, after a traffic accident a year earlier. Smith was on the Saints team that lifted the city’s spirits after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and won the 2010 Super Bowl.

Hayes, a former semi-pro lineman who owned a tow-truck company, said he shot in self-defence, after Smith shot at him. A state appeals court rejected that argument.

But on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that criminal state court verdicts must be unanimous and that such cases that are still under direct appeal are eligible for a new trial.

Santana wrote that because Hayes' case "is in the pipeline, he is eligible for relief,” WWL-TV reported.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said Hayes' appeals ran out when the Louisiana Supreme Court refused without comment on March 9 to hear the case, The Times-Picayune / The New Orleans Advocate reported.

The request for a new trial said Hayes is well within the 90 days allowed to ask for a U.S. Supreme Court hearing after the state's high court rules.

Hayes was 29 when he was sentenced in April 2017 to 25 years in prison for Will Smith's death and 15 for wounding Raquel Smith, to run at the same time.

Surveillance video from the night of the shooting showed Smith's Mercedes SUV possibly bumping Hayes’ Hummer, then driving off. Hayes followed them and rammed his vehicle into Smith's. Both then got out and argued in the street.

The Associated Press

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