Two high-profile Massachusetts trials are nearing their respective ends, as the defense rested today in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial and the jury heard closing arguments in the Boston Marathon terrorism trial.
Hernandez, the former standout tight end for the New England Patriots, is on trial in Fall River Superior Court for murder and gun charges following his alleged involvement in his former friend Odin Lloyd’s shooting death. After the Commonwealth called 131 witnesses over the course of a couple of months to attempt to convince the jury that Hernandez had committed the murder, the defense team called only three witnesses before resting. The defense witnesses focused on the effect of PCP on human beings, and its ability to cause violent and unpredictable behavior. Hernandez’s attorneys seem to be preparing to argue that two men who were with Hernandez on the night of Lloyd’s murder were under the influence of PCP and they were the ones who shot Lloyd to death. Starting with the opening statements, when Hernandez’s attorney repeatedly said that his client and Lloyd were friends, it has been the defense theory that Hernandez did not have a motive to murder Lloyd. The motive that had been previously floated by the Commonwealth – that Lloyd knew about Hernandez’s involvement in a prior double murder and Hernandez wanted to silence him – was never shared with the jury. The attorneys will give closing arguments tomorrow. It will be fascinating to see whether the jury convicts Hernandez, as there has not been a lot of evidence against Hernandez other than his presence at the scene of the murder. Hernandez has denied his involvement in Lloyd’s death. If he is convicted of first-degree murder, Hernandez will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Regardless of what happens at this trial, Hernandez will next appear in Suffolk Superior Court where he is charged with double murder in an unrelated case (he has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well).
Meanwhile, in federal court in Boston today, attorneys gave closing arguments in the terrorism case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who has admitted his involvement in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and murder of an MIT police officer. Tsarnaev’s attorney said during her opening statement that he participated in the bombing, which killed three people and injured hundreds more. There is little doubt that Tsarnaev will be convicted of most, if not all, of the 30 indictments against him. The real question is whether he will receive the death penalty, which is being sought by the government, or life in prison without the possibility of parole. After his convictions on the underlying offenses, there will be a trial where the attorneys can call witnesses and make arguments related to the penalty. Both sides have already started to frame their positions, with the government going into great detail about the injuries and suffering of the victim and the defense suggesting that the defendant was a naive adolescent under the influence of his controlling brother, who was the driving force behind the attack. The defendant’s brother, Tamerlan, was killed by police in a shootout in the days following the bombing.