Key moments in murder trial of ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — A mysterious box in the basement. A marijuana joint found near the victim with the suspect’s DNA on it. A mother’s tears. A fiancee’s allegiance.
As jurors weigh the evidence against former New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez, here’s a look at some of the key moments in his murder trial stemming from the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of his fiancee:
Prosecutors produced neither a murder weapon nor a witness to Lloyd’s shooting in a North Attleborough industrial park. Their case hinges on other elements: cellphone records showing Hernandez and two friends communicating with Lloyd around the time of the slaying; Lloyd’s phone pinging cell towers between Boston and North Attleborough; surveillance video at Hernandez’s home showing him holding a black item that appeared to be a gun minutes after workers at the industrial park heard gunshots; a joint found near Lloyd’s body with Hernandez’s and Lloyd’s DNA on it.
During his closing arguments, Hernandez lawyer James Sultan for the first time acknowledged what that evidence pointed to: Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed. But he described Hernandez as a witness, a 23-year-old kid who didn’t know what to do after seeing a shocking crime. Sultan pinned it on Hernandez’s two co-defendants, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, both of whom have pleaded not guilty and will be tried later. His lawyers said investigators fixated on Hernandez because he was a celebrity, and they pointed to what they called gaping holes in the investigation. The biggest? Prosecutors never put forward a feasible motive for why Hernandez would have put his career and life on the line to kill Lloyd. Hernandez himself never took the stand.
JURY’S ROAD TRIP
Midway through the trial, jurors boarded a bus to tour key spots in the case, including Hernandez’s home, the street where the victim lived and the spot where his body was found. State police stood guard as the jury inspected the street in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood where Lloyd lived with his mother and sisters. Jurors also trekked out in the cold to the snow-covered gravel lot where Lloyd’s bullet-ridden body was found, and they toured Hernandez’s mansion a mile from the crime scene.
TEARS FOR A SON
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, wept quietly at times during the trial. Overcome with emotion, she would sometimes leave the courtroom in tears when jurors were shown graphic photos of her 27-year-old son’s body. Before Ward testified, Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh ordered her not to cry on the stand. Ward remained stoic. When photos of Lloyd’s body in the morgue were shown, she mouthed the words, “My baby, my baby.”
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, was compelled to testify after she was granted immunity from prosecution. Wearing her large diamond engagement ring, Jenkins testified that Hernandez had told her in the days following the shooting that he was not involved. Jenkins testified that she removed a box from their basement at his request the day after the slaying but never looked inside before she dumped it in a random trash bin. Prosecutors said the box may have held evidence including the murder weapon, which was never found. She avoided looking at Hernandez during her testimony. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter.
Jenkins and her younger sister, Shaneah, both attended the trial at times — but they sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. Shayanna sat behind Hernandez and could be seen joking with him, several times exchanging whispered “I love yous” when she attended. Shaneah would sit with Lloyd’s family. Before he was killed, she and Lloyd had made plans to move in together while she attended law school in Boston. Both sisters testified while the other sat in the audience, watching and sometimes seeming annoyed. Shayanna said their relationship was “estranged, kind of.” Both were in court for closing arguments, but they appeared to ignore each other.
MICHELLE R. SMITH
Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.