Defense attorney: Ex-NFLer Aaron Hernandez witnessed killing
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A lawyer for former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez acknowledged Tuesday for the first time that his client was at the scene of a killing and saw it happen, but he described Hernandez to jurors as a kid who simply did not know what to do.
He urged them to find Hernandez not guilty of murder.
“Did he make all the right decisions? No,” lawyer James Sultan said during his closing arguments. “He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed something, a shocking killing, committed by someone he knew. He didn’t know what to do, so he just put one foot in front of the other.”
Hernandez is accused in the June 17, 2013, death of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. Lloyd was shot six times and died in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home. At the time, the star tight end had a $40 million contract with the Patriots.
Sultan pinned the killing on Hernandez’s co-defendants, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz. Both men have pleaded not guilty and will be tried later.
Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said Hernandez’s behavior after the crime showed that he was involved. He cited evidence that Hernandez had rented a car for Wallace and directed his fiancee to give the two men $500 to flee, as well as surveillance video from inside Hernandez’s home that showed him hanging out with them a few hours after Lloyd was killed.
“He’s laying around the pool, soaking up the sun, drinking up smoothies with his two confederates,” McCauley told jurors.
He urged jurors to go through all the evidence.
“If you do that, you’ll get to where you need to go, which is to find the defendant guilty for the murder of Odin Lloyd,” McCauley said.
Jurors are expected to get the case later Tuesday.
Sultan spent several minutes asking jurors to forget what they have heard about Hernandez in the media and outside the courtroom.
He pointed out that prosecutors never presented a clear motive for why Hernandez would kill Lloyd, saying they were friends and future brothers-in-law and that there was no evidence he would have wanted Lloyd dead.
“You didn’t hear because it doesn’t exist,” Sultan said. “Does the prosecution expect you to fill in that gaping hole in its case with guesswork, speculation?”
He also said investigators unfairly fixated on his client, presuming his guilt and finding what they could to support that theory.
“The investigation done in this case was incomplete, biased and inept. That was not fair to Odin Lloyd, that was not fair to Aaron Hernandez, and it was not fair to you,” he said. “All that effort and this is all they could come up with. What does that tell you?”
The trial featured hundreds of pieces of evidence and testimony from 135 witnesses — 132 of them called by the prosecution.
Prosecutors said Hernandez and two friends drove to Boston to pick up Lloyd at his home, then drove him to the industrial park in North Attleborough and killed him. Surveillance video along the way showed Hernandez driving a rented silver Nissan Altima shortly before Lloyd’s sister saw him get into a silver car. Soon after, a toll booth camera caught the Nissan leaving Boston. Lloyd’s phone pinged several cell towers before stopping in North Attleborough for good.
Surveillance video at Hernandez’s home minutes after the shooting showed him holding a black item that appeared to be a gun. A joint found near Lloyd’s body had Hernandez’s and Lloyd’s DNA on it.
After closing arguments, the judge will give the 15 members of the jury instructions. Three of the jurors will then be randomly selected as alternates. The 12-person jury will then be sent to deliberate.
MICHELLE R. SMITH
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