Once a National Football League star, now a convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez’s life has taken a turn – towards jail time. The former New England Patriots tight end was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin L. Lloyd who prosecutors allege made a fatal error of angering Hernandez, 25, at a club two nights before he was killed.
Hernandez stood expressionless in Bristol Superior Court as he was sentenced to a mandatory life term without the possibility of parole. After the jury forewoman read the verdict that pronounced him guilty, he sat down, head shaking.
Odin L. Lloyd
Prosecutors said on June 17, 2013, Hernandez and two other men, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd outside his Dorchester residence and drove him to an industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough. According to prosecutors, it was there that Hernandez shot Lloyd several times, including two direct shots to the chest.
It was only a year prior that Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract extension with the New England Patriots. The tight end helped lead the team to the Super Bowl.
A motive for killing Lloyd was never completely pinpointed by prosecutors, but they were able to paint his as a young man who, despite his good looks, notably sizable fortune, and assumed bright future in the NFL, was secretive as well as easily provoked by perceived slights, much like the one witnesses testified to at his murder trial.
According to those witnesses, two nights before Lloyd was murdered, Hernandez and Lloyd went to a Boston club together. They allege that Hernandez appeared to get angry when Lloyd started talking to other people. At that point, Hernandez alleged stormed out of the club. According to witness testimonies, Hernandez went to his vehicle to retrieve a handgun, which would allegedly be used in the murder two days later.
Weapon Never Found
A murder weapon was never found. And there were no eyewitnesses available to testify to the murder. Prosecutors were able to build their case with circumstantial evidence, including: surveillance footage, cellphone records, DNA, as well as other evidence found around the crime scene. They weaved together a tale of Lloyd’s final ride. Witnesses that testified to suspicious behavior by Hernandez before and after the slaying added additional evidence.
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, faces a perjury indictment tied to the case. She testified for prosecutors, saying Hernandez had told her to remove a box from their basement the day following Lloyd’s murder.
Authorities contend that the box she removed contained the .45 caliber Glock Hernandez had used to kill Lloyd. Defense attorneys for Hernandez said that, according to Jenkins’ testimony about smell and weight, it most likely contained compressed packages of marijuana.
Hernandez’s defense team also alleged that the investigation had been biased, botched, and incompetent from the start because police fixated on Hernandez without following up on any other evidence that pointed out other suspects.
Wallace or Ortiz
In his closing argument, defense attorney James Sultan, suggested Wallace or Ortiz (the two other men believed to have been involved in Lloyd’s murder) may have killed Lloyd while they were in a drug-induced state. In this scenario, Hernandez might have then taken the murder weapon away from the two men when they returned to his home as a way of protecting himself.
Sultan conceded that Hernandez was at the scene of the murder, but maintained his client had only witnessed the shooting and was not actually a part of the plan to murder Lloyd.
The two men will be tried separately.
Guilt Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Hernandez’s defense argued that the evidence presented did not add up to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically it is up to a prosecutor to prove their version of events against this standard: meaning that there could be no “reasonable doubt” in the mind of a “reasonable person” that the defendant is guilty. While there can still be doubt, that doubt can only be to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person’s belief of whether or not the defendant is guilty.
The prosecution called forth 132 witnesses, including Patriots owner Robert Kraft; Jenkins; and a former friend of Hernandez who claimed in a prior lawsuit that Hernandez shot him in the face in Florida four months before Lloyd was killed. The defense team called three witnesses.
His defense team said prosecutors were not able to credibly explain a motive for why Hernandez would want to kill Lloyd. The team described the men’s relationship as one that exists between “future brothers-in-law.” The men dated sisters, pursued other women together, smoked marijuana, and socialized together during family gatherings and at nightclubs.
But lead prosecutor William McCauley suggested Lloyd shared little in common with Hernandez.
“I think it was a great contrast between two young men,” McCauley said. “The defendant, who had so much — so much ability, talent, money, all the things that everyone thinks you need. And you had Odin Lloyd, who didn’t want that.”
According to McCauley, Lloyd, a man that rode his bicycle to his landscaping job, “didn’t want [anything] given to him. He was going to earn it.”
Unusual News Conference with Jury
Following the conviction, in what was an unusual news conference, the entire jury addressed reporters. Kelly Dorsey of Taunton, a juror on the panel, said the panel had not prejudged the case.
“You have to assume that the man sitting in that seat is innocent until the prosecution proves he’s guilty and that’s what happened today,” Dorsey said.
Prosecutors praised the jurors for being able to look past Hernandez’s status as a celebrated athlete that had once been cheered on at the Patriots’ home field at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
A verdict was arrived at by jurors on the seventh day of deliberations following the 11-week trial. Emotional responses, from both families of Hernandez and Lloyd, echoed through the room as the verdict was read.
Jenkins and Terri Hernandez, Hernandez’s mother, held one another and wept. The once pro-footballer looked toward the women and repeatedly whispered the words “be strong.”
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, cried as she sat near Jenkins’s now-estranged sister, Shaneah. At one point Shaneah dated Lloyd.
“Odin was my first, best gift I ever received,” said Ward as she addressed Judge E. Susan Garsh during a brief sentencing hearing following Hernandez’s conviction. “I thank God [for] every second and every day of my son’s life that I spent with him.”
She also offered words of forgiveness to Hernandez, Wallace, and Ortiz.
“I forgive the hands of the people who had a hand in my son’s murder, either before or after,” Ward said.
Hernandez’s lawyers did not comment on the verdict or at sentencing. Sultan only said, in regards to the murder conviction that “we don’t have anything to add. Obviously the court needs to impose the statutory penalty.”
Lloyd’s sister, Olivia Thibou, expressed gratitude for the prosecution’s handling of the case. She also mentioned that her family continues to grieve.
Placement in State Prison
Following the announcement of the verdict, Hernandez was taken to MCI Cedar Junction in Walpole. Which is less than 2 miles from where he used to play for the Patriots. There he will await permanent placement in the state’s prison system. The state’s highest court will review Hernandez’s conviction, as is standard practice.
“Aaron Hernandez may have been a well-known New England Patriots football player,” said District Attorney Thomas Quinn outside the courthouse. “However, in the end, the jury found that he was just a man who committed a brutal murder.”
Separate Double-Murder Indictment
Hernandez also faces a separate double-murder indictment in Suffolk County. He allegedly gunned down two men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, in Boston’s South End in a July 2012 drive-by shooting. A court date has not been set for that case.
Salvador Furtado, father of Safiro, said he wants to see his son’s alleged killer pay for his crimes.
“Justice in America is very strong,” said Furtado. “I believe in justice in America.”
Working with a Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of homicide, or manslaughter ( the legal term for killing another human being, in a way that the intent is less serious than murder) you need to contact a criminal defense attorney. These crimes carry serious consequences if you are convicted. A criminal defense attorney will help build your defense case to ensure protection from these consequences. They will be able to advise you on the legal system and provide premier criminal defense representation for you. At the Law Office of Peter Berlin we understand the difficulties that criminal charges can bring, and we know that without your freedom, nothing else matters.