Michael Fee, the defense attorney for Aaron Hernandez, has called the murder case against the former New England Patriot "weak." This is what lawyers do, of course. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to murder and five weapons charges on Wednesday.
In actuality, much of what Bristol (Mass.) County prosecutors laid out in Hernandez's arraignment and subsequent appeal over the past couple of days was quite strong.
The state offered up enough evidence – and it may very well be sitting, for now, on more – that can put Hernandez in the company of the victim, Odin Lloyd, on the night of Lloyd's slaying, place Hernandez at the scene of the crime, link Hernandez to shell casings of a .45 gun and even show video, from Hernandez's own security system, of him brandishing a gun minutes after leaving the murder scene.
It can paint a pretty solid picture of both means and opportunity, two of the three basic bedrocks of a case -- although a conviction can be won without motive (there doesn't even have to be a motive).
Where Fee's "weak" assessment was correct, at least initially, was on the third part: motive.
Prosecutor William McCauley alleged at Wednesday's arraignment that Hernandez killed Lloyd because three nights prior, when they were both at a Boston nightclub, Lloyd had spoken with some people that Hernandez "had some troubles with."
While people have been killed for less, the idea that Hernandez would, as the state contends, be so incensed at that conversation he'd plot out Lloyd's execution-style slaying some 48 hours later, even calling up two other men from Connecticut to help, was a stretch.
If Hernandez killed Lloyd the way McCauley suggested, then this was a mob-style hit, not a crime of passion or immediate anger. With two days between the conversation and the killing, you'd think cooler heads would prevail.
Otherwise, what the state alleged was one of the most senseless murders imaginable, not just because the reason was trivial, but because of the time elapsed that did little to calm Hernandez's anger. It spoke to an Aaron Hernandez of almost unfathomable stupidity and rage.
You could imagine Fee and his defense team having a field day on that one.
Now, however, reports have surfaced that police are investigating Hernandez in a 2012 double homicide in Boston. In July of that year, a fight broke out at Cure, a Theatre District nightclub. Afterward two men allegedly involved were driving home and stopped at a stoplight. An SUV with Rhode Island license plates pulled up and opened fire. Both men died. Another man in the car was also shot but survived.
Investigators told the Boston Globe they heard Hernandez was at the club that night but did not consider him a suspect at the time. Now they are taking another look, particularly his connection with the SUV. They believe Lloyd, a Hernandez acquaintance who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée, may have known something about the shootings.
"The motive might have been that the victim knew [Hernandez] might have been involved," one official told the Globe.
No charges have been filed against Hernandez. The case is just being investigated. It's not enough to just say the former NFL star has a presumption of innocence in court for the double homicide since he isn't even officially accused at this point -- the Globe's sources are unnamed and Suffolk (Mass.) County prosecutors office declined to comment.
For everyone looking in on the trial, however, the potential double homicide link is a major development – and not just because it may mean there was a guy who killed two people playing in the NFL last year; let alone rewarded with a reported $41.1 million contract.
This is about motive, the one glaring weak part of the state's current accusations against Hernandez.
Hernandez was seemingly involved in this silly and pointless criminal enterprise – one that didn't even need money due to his NFL contract. He appears to have played football on Sundays and movie gangster the rest of the week.
If Hernandez believed Lloyd was potentially peeling off from the group or running his mouth, then he'd likely be concerned. Lloyd may have known of a double killing that would put Hernandez's life either in jeopardy from retribution or facing criminal charges from the police. That's a lot of mays and ifs, but if true, then silencing Lloyd becomes, in the criminal mind, understandable.
It at least makes more sense than the original motive.
Lloyd's behavior in the nightclub on June 16 could've rattled Hernandez to the point where over the next 48 hours he would need to call in reinforcements and plot a way to kill a man who was now seen as a threat to him. If he just wanted to teach him a lesson to not speak to rivals, why not just beat him up. This helps explain, the prosecution will now argue, how Lloyd wound up in a field behind a Massachusetts industrial park with five bullets in him.
Yes, it's something out of the Tony Soprano or Marlo Stanfield playbook, but that seemed to be the way Hernandez ran his life no matter how many touchdowns he caught.
The concept of Hernandez being a repeated killer – three bodies? – is jarring and outrageous and speaks to a man even more depraved than we originally believed (and that's saying something). In a sad, sick way however, a growing pile of tragedies may actually clear this case up.
NFL.com on Aaron Hernandez's living conditions in jail:
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