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The Latest: Prosecutor in Smith case calls witness 'insane'

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AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Latest on hearings for Cardell Hayes, who was convicted of manslaughter in the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

A prosecutor is calling a newly found defense witness in the killing of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith “certifiably insane.”

Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli used the term after the sometimes emotional and rambling testimony of Michael Burnside. The bushy-haired, bearded witness appeared near tears at times and twice let slip a profanity on the stand as he insisted that he heard two guns fired when Smith was killed.

Burnside was called by the defense Wednesday to support a motion for a new trial for Cardell Hayes, who faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the shootings of Smith and his wife following a traffic dispute.

Defense attorney John Fuller sharply criticized Napoli’s characterization of the new witness. He told the judge: “Just because people are different from you, doesn’t make them liars.”

11 a.m.

A prosecutor is poking holes in the testimony of a new witness in the killing of retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.

Put on the stand to support a defense motion for a new trial for Cardell Hayes, the witness insisted he heard gunfire from two different weapons that night, first “baps” from a smaller weapon, then “booms” from another gun.

But Assistant District Attorney Jason Napoli noted that Michael Burnside said he doesn’t own a clock or a calendar, and couldn’t be certain of the time and date of the shooting he heard.

Napoli noted that in fact, another shooting had happened in the same area just 45 minutes or so before Smith was killed.

Napoli also noted the lack of evidence of any other guns being fired – no shell casings from a second gun, and no witnesses, other than Hayes, who indicated a second gun was involved.

9:50 a.m.

In sometimes rambling and emotional testimony, a New Orleans man is insisting he heard gunfire from two different weapons when Will Smith was shot to death last year.

Michael Burnside was called by lawyers for Cardell Hayes, convicted of manslaughter last year in Smith’s death. Hayes’s lawyers are seeking a new trial.

Burnside, in his 50s, testified that he was at his home, near the site of the shooting, when Smith was killed. He heard a series of “baps” from a low-recoil weapon, then a series of at least eight “booms” from a larger weapon.

He didn’t witness Smith’s killing and said he didn’t realize the sounds could be related to Smith’s death until reading newspaper accounts. His testimony conflicts with trial testimony indicating only one gun was fired.

9:15 a.m.

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton took a front row seat alongside family and friends of his former player Will Smith, as hearings for Smith’s killer were about to get under way.

Twenty-nine-year-old Cardell Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter for shooting Smith to death last year, and attempted manslaughter for the wounding of Smith’s wife.

But his sentencing Wednesday could be delayed because his lawyers also were to argue a motion for a new trial. Hayes has maintained that he believed Smith was armed when the two argued over a traffic dispute last year.

8 a.m.

Defense lawyers for the man who killed former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith have filed a motion for a new trial based on “new evidence.”

Court records show the motion was filed Tuesday afternoon. The records don’t spell out what the evidence is. The motion is expected to be argued Wednesday, the same day Hayes is scheduled to be sentenced. It was unclear whether the motion might lead to a sentencing delay.

The New Orleans district attorney has said Hayes deserves to be imprisoned for 60 years. That would include the maximum 40 years for Hayes’ manslaughter conviction, followed by another 20 for attempted manslaughter in the wounding of Smith’s wife.

Hayes was convicted in December. Smith died in the traffic dispute in April 2016.

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