Saints coach Sean Payton closed a day of emotional testimony Wednesday in New Orleans in the sentencing hearing for the man convicted of killing former NFL star Will Smith, whose widow earlier hadangrily implored Cardell Hayes to "tell the truth,"the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
During his testimony, Payton described his former team captain's leadership, the impact he had on the Saints' Super Bowl-winning team in 2009-10 and how hurt both were when a knee injury ended Smith's NFL career in 2013.
Payton added that Smith was planning tojoining the Saints' coaching staff as a defensive assistantlater in 2016.
"He was special," Payton said, his voice breaking. "Rare. Not as a player, but as a man and a person and a teammate.
"I wanted more of this 'special,' and 2016 would have been his first year [coaching], this past year."
But, according to the Times-Picayune, "it was Racquel Smith, confronting her husband's convicted killer, who appeared to have the most impact upon the hushed courtroom."
She told Hayes, 29, that heowedit to her three fatherless children to tell the truth about April 9, 2016, when that night he shot her and killed Smith ina road-rage confrontation in New Orleans'Lower Garden District.
"All I wanted from you was to say, 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry,' and that you own up and say you shot me," Smithtold Hayes. "You owe my kids that much, to own up to what you did. That's all I ask of you."
Later, she said:"The biggest heartbreak is the factthatyou're saying my husband shot me. You know he did not shoot me. You know it. It's lie after lie after lie. You shot me, there was no one else. Tell the truth.
"I don't deny that [Will Smith]had been drinking that night, but you don't shoot someone seven times for drinking. You don't shoot a mother of three while her back is turned, with his back turned. You don't do that, it's not fair. We were walking away from you."
By the end of this week, Criminal District Court Judge Camille Buras is expected to impose on Hayes — convicted Dec. 11 of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter forshootingthe Smiths —a prison sentence ranging from 20-60 years.