By Scott Malone and Daniel Lovering
FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez had no reason to kill the semiprofessional football player he is charged with murdering in 2013, but was targeted by law enforcement because of his fame, his attorneys argued on Thursday.
The first of two murder trials that the one-time National Football League star faces this year opened in Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River just days before his former team faces the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona, 2,600 miles (4,184 kilometers) away.
Prosecutors contend that Hernandez, 25, murdered Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near his North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home in June 2013, after a dispute regarding some people that Lloyd had spent time with at a nightclub, a charge that his lawyers vigorously opposed in their opening statements.
"Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man," defense attorney Michael Fee told the jury. "We are here because the police and the prosecutors targeted Aaron from the very beginning. As soon as they found out that Aaron Hernandez, the celebrity football player, the New England Patriot, was a friend of Odin Lloyd’s, Aaron never had a chance. It was over."
Prosecutors said security video from the dozen cameras in Hernandez' home show him arriving with a gun hours before going to pick up Lloyd in Boston, and later depict Hernandez and friends Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace carrying items from the basement to the trunk of a rental car.
"The cameras in the basement that night weren't recording," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg said, showing the jury clips from the video, including one of Hernandez standing in his living room with what he described as a pistol he said was similar to the one used to kill Lloyd.
Fee told the jury the video was not clear.
"You will decide in the various scenes that we will show ... what's really in Aaron's hand. Whether it is an iPod or an iPhone or an iPad or a BlackBerry or a TV remote or a gun or something else," Fee said.
The fact that Hernandez, who was dropped by the Patriots after his arrest, did not destroy the video indicated that he had nothing to hide, he said.
"He did not because he had no reason to," Fee said during the first day of testimony in the trial, expected to run six to 10 weeks. "Aaron Hernandez was planning a future, not a murder."
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all charges. Investigators have not recovered the gun they contend was used to murder Lloyd.
Prosecutors contend that Hernandez, Ortiz and Wallace picked Lloyd up at his home early on June 17, 2013, and drove him to an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home where Lloyd's bullet-riddled body was found later that day.
A marijuana cigarette found near Lloyd's body contained traces of both his DNA and that of Hernandez, potentially placing both at the scene, Bomberg said.
Prosecutors also questioned the teenaged runner who discovered Lloyd's body lying in the industrial park, showing jurors photos of his spread-eagled body as it was found.
Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, who was present in court as was his mother, Terri Hernandez.
Members of Hernandez' family were also present, and wept openly at times during Thursday's proceedings.
Wallace and Ortiz were also charged in connection with Lloyd's slaying and will be tried separately.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney, Susan Heavey and Christian Plumb)