US and Canada

Will Smith shooting: Cardell Hayes found guilty of manslaughter

New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith in an NFL game against New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. 9 Dec 2012 Image copyright AP
Image caption Will Smith was part of the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl winning team in 2009

A jury in the US state of Louisiana has found a man guilty of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of retired American football player Will Smith.

Cardell Hayes, 29, was also convicted of attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith's wife.

The former New Orleans Saints player was shot during a row over a traffic accident in the city in April.

Hayes was accused of second-degree murder but the jury opted for a lesser charge.

He had claimed that he had only fired after Smith, who he said was angry and drunk, punched him and grabbed a gun.

Prosecutors said the evidence showed that Smith had never armed himself.

No other witness said Smith was armed.

But a pathologist report revealed Smith was legally drunk with a high-blood alcohol level when he died.

He had spent the day at the New Orleans annual French Quarter festival, a bar and two restaurants.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Cardell Hayes claimed he had seen Smith with a gun

Smith, his wife and two passengers were heading from the city's Lower Garden District towards the city centre when the ex-football player appeared to lightly bump Hayes' vehicle and drove away.

Hayes maintained he did not intentionally run into Smith's Mercedes SUV moments later and said he was attempting to call 911 to report the accident when the two cars again touched.

Hayes is due to be sentenced on 17 February and faces up to 40 years in prison.

"Racquel's heart is full of gratitude for the entire staff of the New Orleans District Attorney's Office and the members of the police department who worked tirelessly on this case," Lauren Renschler, a spokeswoman for Smith's family, said in a statement.

Ms Renschler said Mrs Smith would not publicly address the case until after Hayes' sentencing.

Smith, originally from Queens, New York, played for Ohio State's 2002 national championship team and was part of the New Orleans Saints team that won the Super Bowl in 2009.

Saints coach Sean Payton, quarterback Drew Brees, and former running back Deuce McAllister were among those who appeared at trial to show support for the Smith family.