During his closing argument today, Aaron Hernandez’s attorney said he was present and witnessed the shooting death of Odin Lloyd.
Attorney James Sultan argued that Hernandez, the former star tight end for the New England Patriots, was an innocent bystander who saw one of his codefendants gun down Lloyd. Hernandez has been on trial for the past couple of months, under indictment for first-degree murder and weapons charges. Lloyd, who was dating Hernandez’s fiance’s sister, was shot to death in June of 2013 and his body was left in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleboro home. Hernandez has maintained his innocence since his arrest shortly after the murder.
Surveillance footage taken from video cameras at Hernandez’s home show him with two other men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, shortly after the killing. Attorney Sultan argued that Ortiz or Wallace, who have also been indicted for Lloyd’s murder and will be tried separately, killed Lloyd during a violent outburst while under the influence of PCP. Attorney Sultan further argued that the Commonwealth had not produced any evidence of motive, and Hernandez did not have a reason to murder Lloyd. It’s true that there was limited evidence of motive at trial, but the Commonwealth had previously suggested that Hernandez killed Lloyd to silence him, as Lloyd knew details about Hernandez’s other, unrelated criminal conduct. That evidence, along with evidence that Hernandez had allegedly shot another friend in the face, was not presented to the jury.
The prosecutor told the jury during his closing argument that Hernandez decided to kill Lloyd because Lloyd knew details about his personal life and because Lloyd had disrespected him at a club in Boston. According to the prosecutor, as Lloyd was getting out of the car, Hernandez shot him multiple times. Hernandez, Ortiz, and Wallace then went back to Hernandez’s house where, the prosecutor asserted, Hernandez was seen on video surveillance carrying a gun. The next day, Hernandez allegedly convinced his fiance to dump the box that was holding the gun. The gun has never been recovered by the police.
After the attorneys finished presenting their closing arguments, the judge gave the jurors a series of instructions to guide their deliberations. The jury can find Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder, guilty of second-degree murder, or not guilty. Even if the jury is not convinced that Hernandez pulled the trigger, it can still convict him of murder under a “joint venture” theory, which means he and his codefendants were working together, with the same intent, to achieve the criminal goal.
The allegations of Hernandez’s numerous crimes are well documented in the media. However, given the evidence that was presented in court, it shouldn’t be a surprise at all if Hernandez is found not guilty. The jury did not hear evidence regarding the unrelated double murder charge Hernandez is facing, or the allegation that Hernandez shot his friend in the face. The only motive evidence presented by the prosecutor was that Lloyd knew too much about Hernandez’s personal life and Lloyd hadn’t paid enough attention to Hernandez at a bar. It seems to be a stretch that Hernandez would kill Lloyd for these reasons. While Hernandez was admittedly present when Lloyd was killed, how can the jury conclude – based on the evidence at trial – that he either pulled the trigger or conspired with his codefendants to commit the murder? Even given the evidence that Hernandez had at least one gun in his home and might have been holding a gun on the night Lloyd was killed, the jury might have a hard time concluding beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez is guilty.
The jury began deliberating this afternoon and will continue tomorrow morning.