Even as his former team prepares for the Super Bowl, Aaron Hernandez is now on trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd. Opening statements in the trial began Thursday.
Hernandez has been charged with first-degree murder in the June 2013 death of Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player and an acquaintance of the former New England Patriot. At the time of his death, Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.
Lloyd's body was discovered in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty. Hernandez's associate Ernest Wallace Jr. is also charged with the murder. Another associate, Carlos Ortiz, was charged with being an accessory after the fact.
The case is unfolding in Bristol County Superior Court under the eye of Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh. Eighteen jurors were seated, of which 12 will decide Hernandez's fate and six will serve as alternates.
Hernandez has also been charged in the June 2012 deaths of two men in Boston following an incident in a nightclub. However, Garsh has ruled that jurors will not be permitted to hear the details of the Boston case in this particular trial.
The following information is comprised of reports from media members inside the courthouse.
Opening Statement: Prosecution
• The prosecution began by seeking to humanize Odin Lloyd, to present him as more than simply a name and a statistic. Many of Lloyd's family and friends were in the courtroom gallery wearing wristbands of support.
• Bristol County Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg spent a significant amount of his opening statement demonstrating the links between Lloyd and Hernandez, saying Lloyd worked hard and loved his girlfriend.
• According to Bomberg, Hernandez masterminded the murder of Lloyd, and contacted his associates more than 40 times in two days.
• The prosecution will use cell phone triangulation to demonstrate that Hernandez's phone was in close proximity to Odin Lloyd during the night in question. In addition, the prosecution will show that DNA tests revealed Hernandez's DNA was present on a shell casing found in the car driven that night.
Opening Statement: Defense
• Hernandez's attorney Michael Fee attacked the prosecution's case as circumstantial, pointing to the fact that there is no murder weapon and no one who saw the shooting take place. "There will be evidence that Aaron was with his friend Odin Lloyd before he was killed," Fee said. "But no evidence he killed his friend Odin."
• Fee called prosecutors "sloppy and unprofessional," saying they zeroed in on Hernandez's celebrity, and that police bullied and intimidated witnesses into providing the kind of testimony they wanted. "Once prosecutors learned Lloyd was a friend of Aaron Hernandez, it was over." He dismissed the prosecution's series of events as "just a story, and untrue."
• Fee contended that Hernandez had absolutely no motive to kill Lloyd; Hernandez was at the top of the world, both professionally and personally, and would not risk that. "In June of 2013," Fee said, "Aaron Hernandez was planning a future, not a murder."
• As a counterpoint to the prosecution's humanization of Lloyd, Fee reminded jurors that Hernandez "played for our hometown team, the New England Patriots," and helped the Patriots reach a Super Bowl. He termed Lloyd a "blunt master" for his use of marijuana, and noted that Lloyd and Hernandez were friends.
• In addition, Fee launched a pre-emptive attack on the science-based evidence, telling the jury that "prosecutors will flood you with meaningless facts."
Opening statements concluded shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET. Once both attorneys concluded their statements, the judge reminded the jury of Massachusetts' "joint venture" law, which allows for an individual to be convicted of murder even if they are simply involved with the act and did not do the actual killing ... if, for instance, someone was present at a murder but did not actually perform the deed. This is critical in cases of circumstantial evidence, as the Hernandez trial is.
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