Hernandez jurors asked about attending Patriots games
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Lawyers involved in the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez want to know if there are any die-hard Patriots fans in the jury pool.
They also have asked more than 1,000 potential jurors whether the fact that Hernandez played for the NFL would make them feel he was more likely to be guilty, and how much they know about the case.
Prospective jurors filled out the questionnaire during the first phase of jury selection in Bristol County Superior Court, which spanned three days and ended Tuesday. The court released the 51-question form late Tuesday afternoon.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder for the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Several of the questions focused on Hernandez’s status as a football player.
“Does the fact that Mr. Hernandez was a professional football player make you feel that he is more likely to be guilty of the charges in this case than an individual that did not play football professionally would be?” read one question.
It also asked whether the person is a Patriots fan; if so, for how long; whether he or she has attended a game and if so, how many.
The questionnaire informs prospective jurors that the case will draw a high degree of media attention and that they will be barred from posting anything about the case on Facebook, Twitter or other social media or elsewhere online.
“Would you be able to abide by these rules for the entirety of the trial?” potential jurors were asked.
Several questions focused on their familiarity with the case, ranging from never having heard about it to following it closely. It asked where they got their information, listing more than 50 media outlets, from the local Fall River News to the National Enquirer, as well as social media and other sources.
Judge Susan Garsh told prospective jurors before they completed the questionnaires that they still might be called as jurors if they had heard of the case or knew one of the witnesses.
They were asked if they knew any of 300 people listed as potential witnesses or others whose names might come up during trial, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.
Potential jurors were also questioned about their feelings on race and ethnicity. Hernandez is Hispanic, Lloyd was African-American, and Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, is African-American.
The questionnaire also asks if potential jurors are gun owners, their views on marijuana use and whether they feel Hernandez is more likely to be guilty because he has tattoos.
Also Tuesday, the judge turned down a request from CNN that the questioning of prospective jurors be done in a way that the public can hear. CNN expressed concerns that Garsh’s plan to question prospective jurors out of the public’s hearing violates the First Amendment. But Garsh responded that Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court found it was constitutional to question jurors out of the public’s hearing, as long as the public could see the proceeding.
Individual questioning of jurors is expected to start Friday.
MICHELLE R. SMITH
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