Aaron Hernandez trial: Fiancée granted immunity for her testimony

Dan WetzelColumnist
Shayanna Jenkins watches during the murder trial for Aaron Hernandez. (REUTERS
Shayanna Jenkins watches during the murder trial for Aaron Hernandez. (REUTERS

Shayanna Jenkins has sat faithfully with the family of her fiancée, Aaron Hernandez, during her occasional courtroom appearances for his murder trial.

She's chatted with his mother and uncles. She's held Hernandez's brother's hand for support.

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She's smiled at the former New England Patriots star, the father of her 2-year-old daughter, as he's entered the fifth floor of Bristol County (Mass.) Courthouse, even though he's accused of killing the boyfriend of her own sister.

Now the whole thing could flip.

On Tuesday, Judge E. Susan Garsh endorsed an application to grant Jenkins immunity in exchange for her testimony. She is now expected to become a prosecution witness, perhaps the most powerful the Commonwealth has.

Hernandez is charged with planning and orchestrating the murder of Odin Lloyd, who was shot to death early on the morning of June 17, 2013, in an empty field behind an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleboro, Mass., home. Lloyd, of Boston, was the boyfriend of Shaneah Jenkins, Shayanna's younger sister.

Hernandez and Shayanna Jenkins, 25, had dated on and off since attending high school together in Bristol, Conn. They'd moved in together and had a child as he became a key figure with the Patriots and earned himself a $40 million-plus long-term contract.

Prosecutors have a strong case to put Hernandez at the scene of the crime, but lack a murder weapon, an eyewitness to the shooting, a confession or a clear motive.

They've alleged Hernandez actively covered up the crime and implied in early questioning that Shayanna Jenkins participated by disposing of the murder weapon the following day when she was seen carrying something in a black plastic bag from their basement, then borrowed her sister's car for a half an hour.

What light Shayanna Jenkins can shed on the hours and days after the incident is still unknown. The court sealed the immunity deal. This doesn't 100 percent assure she'll testify, she could still refuse, be held in contempt of court and deal with the reprecussions. Jenkins was accused of lying under oath to a grand jury looking into the case, so it was expected the prosecutors would use that leverage to push for a deal in exchange for her testimony.

Still, she had appeared fiercely loyal to Hernandez thus far.

The Hernandez case was postponed the past two days because of heavy snow in Massachusetts, part of a trend where rough weather has stalled the early parts of the trial. It is scheduled to begin again Wednesday.

There is no indication when Jenkins will testify.

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