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Man convicted of manslaughter in death of ex-NFL star

Reuters

(Reuters) - A jury on Sunday night found a Louisiana man guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of retired NFL player Will Smith, following an April vehicle collision in New Orleans.

Cardell Hayes, 29, was charged with the second-degree murder of Smith, a former defensive lineman for the New Orleans Saints and a prominent member of the team during their 2010 Super Bowl victory.

Smith, who was 34 and had retired from the National Football League in 2014, was shot eight times on April 9. His body was found slumped over the steering wheel of his Mercedes SUV. His wife Racquel was also shot multiple times but survived.

Hayes, a tow truck driver, pleaded not guilty to charges that included attempted second-degree murder and aggravated criminal damage to property. He was also convicted of attempted manslaughter for shooting Smith's wife.

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Jury selection began on Monday in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. Hayes testified on Saturday, and jurors began deliberations on Sunday evening.

Authorities said Smith was returning from a dinner in the city's Lower Garden District with his wife shortly before 11:30 p.m. on the night of the incident.

Surveillance footage from the scene appeared to show Smith's Mercedes SUV bump the rear of Hayes' Hummer before speeding off. Moments later, according to authorities, Hayes' Hummer hit the rear of Smith's vehicle, causing it to crash into a third car.

After a heated exchange, police said, Hayes shot Smith eight times, including seven times in the back.

In the following days, authorities said they recovered a handgun from inside Smith's SUV that had not been fired. Toxicology reports showed Smith was legally drunk at the time of the incident.

Hayes is set to be sentenced early next year.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)