Former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was murdered in a road-rage incident eight years ago. Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison after being convicted of manslaughter but with a non-unanimous verdict, as Louisiana was one of the two states at the time that allowed a 12-person jury to convict with one or two not-guilty votes. In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional to convict a person of a crime with a less than unanimous vote. As a result, Hayes appealed his conviction, served four years of his sentence, and was released on bond and granted a new trial. This time, the jury found Hayes guilty unanimously, bringing conclusion to a long and tragic case.
This case brought attention to broader issues with racial equality in America, with widespread discussion around the topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Some members of society oppose DEI programs and efforts, believing that America has never been racist. However, this perspective disregards historical laws and practices that were overtly racist. Notably, Louisiana and Oregon enacted laws that allowed for non-unanimous jury convictions, rooted in methods to maintain white supremacy by essentially negating the votes of black individuals.
While some continue to deny the existence of racism in America, historical examples such as the murder case of Will Smith shed light on the problematic nature of broader laws and institutions that have perpetuated racial inequality. These issues highlight the ongoing need for discussions and actions that address diversity, equity, and inclusion in society.