Opening statements began Thursday in the Massachusetts murder trial against Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, 25, formerly a tight end for the New England Patriots, allegedly murdered semi-professional football player, Odin Lloyd, 27, whom he knew socially, in 2013. Hernandez also faces separate, double-homicide charges from 2012, potentially linked to Lloyd’s death.
The prosecution, led by assistant district attorney Patrick Bomberg, says Hernandez, along with two potential accomplices, drove Lloyd to an industrial park close to Hernandez’ house, and then shot him six times.
Through a variety of physical evidence — including video surveillance of Hernandez the morning of the murder — the state argues that Hernandez “orchestrated” Lloyd’s death.
The whole situation allegedly began with a text exchange.
The screenshot above shows text messages from Hernandez (labelled as “Dig N—a) on Lloyd’s phone. The whole conversation, permissible as a result of a search warrant against Hernandez, reads:
Hernandez (9:05 pm): “I’m coming to grab that tonight u gon b around I need dat and we could step for a little again”
Hernandez (9:34 pm): “Waddup.”
Lloyd (9:37 pm): “Aite, where.”
Hernandez (9:39 pm): “idk it don’t matter but imma hit u when I’m dat way like Las time if my phone dies imma hit u when I charge it which will be in a lil.”
Lloyd (10:00 pm): “Aite idk anything goin on”
Hernandez (10:13 pm): “I’ll figure it out ill hit u on way.”
Lloyd (12:22 am): “We still on.”
The exchange implies that Hernandez had invited Lloyd out that night. Hernandez’ defence, led by Michael Fee, however, spun the conversation as proof of the two men’s close friendship, which could lead the jury to question Hernandez’ motive for murder, a significant element in the burden of proof for the prosecution.
Lloyd partied with Hernandez only nights before the alleged murder, with no signs of tension, Fee said. He also reminded the jury that Lloyd had been dating Hernandez’ girlfriend’s sister. If both couples got married, Lloyd could have one day become Hernandez’ brother-in-law.
The image above shows a Nissan Altima, rented in Hernandez’ name, outside Lloyd’s house at 2:33 a.m. on June 17, the day of Lloyd’s murder. Hernandez allegedly picked Lloyd up. The prosecution also claims to have a series of text messages Lloyd send to his sister indicating he was with someone referred to as “NFL” shortly before his death.
Fee admitted that Hernandez renting a car sounded “suspicious” but also claimed that he rented cars all the time — “over two dozen” between March 2012 and June 2013. Five of them were Nissan Altimas, according to Fee.
Screenshot from court
Shortly after that, video surveillance shows Hernandez returning home, without Lloyd. Hernandez apparently lives a “two minute drive” from the industrial park where Lloyd’s body was found.
Screenshot via court
The screenshot above, from Hernandez’ personal home surveillance footage, showed Hernandez walking through his house, shortly after returning without Lloyd, carrying a dark shape in his hands. The prosecution would have the jury believe it’s a gun — a Glock, even more specifically. The defence naturally introduced doubt.
“Ladies and gentleman … you decide what’s in Aaron’s hands,” Fee said. “And if you think it’s a gun, what kind of gun if it?” He also speculated the item could have been an iPhone, a Blackberry, or a TV remote, among other things.
Although police never recovered the weapon used to shoot Lloyd, five .45 calibre shell casings were found at the scene of the crime. The investigation also found the same firearm, with characteristics consistent with a Glock, fired all the shots, according to Bomberg. Another casing, found in the Nissan Altima Hernandez rented, even showed evidence of his DNA.
In criminal trials, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, meaning the jury will have to find Hernandez guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Motive for the crime makes up a huge portion of that argument, and thus far, the defence has tried to stir up doubt by saying Hernandez had no motive.
At the time, Hernandez had a huge football contract with the New England Patriots and was making wedding plans with his girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins, whom prosecutors believe might have helped him hide evidence. On top of that, he and Odin were close friends, who smoked marijuana and chased women together. Lloyd, known as the “blunt master” even rolled weed for Hernandez, Fee mentioned casually.
“In June of 2013,” Fee said, “Aaron Hernandez was planning a future, not a murder.”
We reached out to Hernandez’ lawyer and will update this post if we hear back.
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