But New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro soon made it clear he believes Hayes deserves a 60-year sentence.
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. "At least with 25 he has the opportunity to be reunited with his family", Hayes' lawyer, John Fuller, said outside court.
Hayes' sentencing may be pushed to later in the week even if the judge rules out a new trial. "Just because people are different from you, doesn't make them liars", he protested.
"There are no winners here today", her statement says. "I'm not really there for my son".
As she puts it, "I will continue to shine my light for my Superman".
The judge sentenced 29-year-old Cardell Hayes to 25 years for manslaughter and 15 for attempted manslaughter. He had faced up to 60 years if the sentences were to be served consecutively.
Jurors heard at trial that Hayes's Hummer had rear-ended Smith's Mercedes SUV that night, shortly after the SUV appeared to have tapped the rear of Hayes's auto.
Evidence presented during Hayes' trial showed that Smith's 9 mm semi-automatic handgun was found loaded but unused inside his SUV.
Hayes claimed self-defense, but no other witness or evidence supported his belief that Smith was firing at him.
A prosecutor is calling a newly found defense witness in the killing of former New Orleans Saints star Will Smith "certifiably insane".
A Louisiana judge has denied a new trial for the killer of retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith.
Smith was cast during the trial not only as a football hero - part of the Saints team that lifted the stricken city's spirits after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the one that won a Super Bowl in 2010 - but also a beloved community leader who settled in New Orleans after retirement. He also acknowledged that he didn't witness the killing, and the prosecutor poked other holes in his testimony.
Juventus stand firm to eliminate Barca out of Champions League
Atletico, meanwhile, ended Leicester's fairytale run in Europe, edging the Foxes 2-1 over two legs. To which Juventus replied: "Thank @FCBarcelona, it's an honor to beat such a great opponent".
Defense attorney Jay Daniel said Hayes truly believes he was in danger when he shot Smith during an argument over traffic previous year. Hayes could get up to 60 years if sentenced to consecutive terms for manslaughter in Smith's death and attempted manslaughter for wounding Smith's wife.
Defense attorney John Fuller sharply criticized that characterization.
Testimony ahead of the sentence has been emotional.
Hayes' lawsuit said Smith's blood tested almost two times the legal limit for alcohol. Hayes insisted he fired in self-defense, but apologized to the Smith family. And Hayes' mother pleaded through her tears for mercy for her son. Smith died in the traffic dispute in April 2016.
Hayes' defense said after the trial that Smith's popularity led to a rush to judgment by police and prosecutors.
State District Judge Camille Buras is expected to announce her sentence Friday.
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 previous year.
Smith's widow, Racquel, addressed the court and Hayes directly expressing grief over her loss and telling Hayes to own up to his actions.
Hayes faces up to 60 years in prison for manslaughter and attempted manslaughter after killing Will Smith and wounding Racquel in a confrontation that began when the Smith's auto apparently bumped his Humvee in traffic. And later, after again insisting that he acted in self-defense as Smith fired a gun at him, despite trial evidence to the contrary, he referred to the Smith family, saying, "I apologize for their loss".
Foret agrees. "Most judges have their minds made up when they take the bench the morning of sentencing", he said. And to all of those who continued to pray alongside us through this very hard time, we heard you and we are so appreciative for the continued outpouring of love and support.
Hayes appeared to have caught something of a break at his December trial when a jury decided against second-degree murder, which would have meant mandatory life in prison.