Things to know: Murder trial of ex-NFLer Aaron Hernandez
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — The murder trial of Aaron Hernandez will enter its eighth week this week, as prosecutors in Massachusetts continue to build a case against the onetime New England Patriots star. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the June, 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, 27, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. The trial is expected to last into April.
THE PROSECUTION’S CASE
Prosecutors have said Hernandez, 25, and two other men, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked Lloyd up from his Boston home in a silver rental car and drove him to a North Attleborough industrial park, where he was shot to death.
According to evidence and testimony presented so far, video surveillance footage shows Hernandez in the car on the way to Boston about half an hour before Lloyd was seen by a witness and different surveillance camera getting into a silver car. A toll booth camera soon after caught the rental car leaving Boston. Lloyd’s cellphone pinged several towers on the way to North Attleborough.
Surveillance video from in Hernandez’s own home caught him coming home in the silver rental, then carrying what an employee of firearms maker Glock testified looked like a handgun less than 10 minutes after the killing.
A marijuana joint found near Lloyd’s body had DNA from both Lloyd and Hernandez, prosecutors said.
Hernandez’s defense team has tried to portray Hernandez and Lloyd as friends, and argued that Hernandez had no reason to kill him. They have attacked the police work in the case, portraying it as sloppy.
The defense has cast doubt on evidence that Hernandez’s DNA was on a shell casing that was found in the rental car, noting that it was stuck to chewed bubble gum also found inside the car that could have easily contaminated it.
In his opening statements, Hernandez lawyer Michael Fee told jurors that a person could not be convicted of a crime just because they hang with the wrong people or are in the wrong place.
Several members of the Patriots organization and professional football players have been listed as possible witnesses, but none have yet been called to testify.
The highest profile among them is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Team owner Robert Kraft is also listed. There’s no indication from prosecutors when they would be called, if they are called at all.
The Patriots have come up occasionally in testimony. For example, Hernandez lived next door to Patriots assistant coach Joe Judge, and police went to Judge’s home the evening of Lloyd’s death as they looked for Hernandez to question him.
Shayanna Jenkins has been granted immunity to testify after a petition by prosecutors, but it’s not clear when or if she will be called.
Video surveillance viewed by jurors showed Jenkins removing what appeared to be a box from the basement the day after the killing. Prosecutors said before the trial they believe the box contained the gun used to kill Lloyd, which has never been found.
Jenkins has been coming to court sporadically and sitting behind Hernandez, although did not appear all last week.
Among the more intriguing possible witnesses are Roberto Olivares, Hernandez’s barber, and Jennifer Mercado, one of his cousins.
Olivares was out at a Boston nightclub with Hernandez and Lloyd two nights before the killing. Prosecutors have said Hernandez got angry that night, but it’s not clear about what, and no one has yet testified that he was angry. Olivares has been called to appear Thursday for possible testimony.
Mercado is the only person other than Jenkins to be granted immunity to testify. It’s not clear what she can offer.
Her sister, Tanya Singleton, pleaded guilty last year to criminal contempt for failing to testify before the grand jury. Singleton has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact for allegedly helping Wallace flee to Georgia after the killing. Singleton is also listed as a potential witness.