Two high-profile Massachusetts criminal trials are now underway and testimony is expected to continue this week in both.
In Fall River Superior Court, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is on trial for first-degree murder, charged with shooting to death his one-time friend Odin Lloyd.
Last week’s testimony dealt largely with DNA probabilities. An employee from the state police crime laboratory testified that biological material found on a spent shell casing that police contend came from the gun that shot Lloyd matched Hernandez’s DNA profile. The state lab analyst also testified that a marijuana joint found in the industrial park where Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was discovered contained the DNA of both Hernandez and Lloyd.
The shell casing was found in a dumpster outside of a car rental business where the prosecution claims Hernandez rented the car that drove Lloyd to his death. When the police found the casing, it was covered by a chewed piece of bubblegum. Defense attorneys have suggested that Hernandez’s DNA could have been transferred from the gum he chewed onto the casing, and the state lab analyst agreed that such a scenario was possible.
Prosecutors are attempting to prove their circumstantial case against Hernandez by establishing that he was with Lloyd immediately before the murder and was later seen in surveillance footage with a gun in his hand. Earlier in the trial, multiple housekeepers have testified that they discovered guns in Hernandez’s house. The government’s theory is that Hernandez killed Lloyd to silence him, as Lloyd knew incriminating details about Hernandez’s participation in other crimes. In addition to the Fall River case, Hernandez is under indictment for double murder in Suffolk Superior Court. Hernandez has pleaded guilty to all charges in both cases.
Meanwhile, in downtown Boston, the heartbreaking testimony in the marathon bombing trial is scheduled to continue this week in federal court. Defendant Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with 30 crimes, 17 of which carry the death penalty, related to his involvement in planting backpacks containing homemade bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013. When the bombs exploded, three people were killed and hundreds were hurt.
Tsarnaev’s attorney admitted during her opening statement that he was involved, and the only real suspense will be whether his punishment will be life in prison or the death penalty. Several of the victims were among the first witnesses for the government last week including William Richard, whose young son Martin was killed in the blasts. Martin’s younger sister, Jane, lost one of her legs. Several other victims who lost limbs told their stories to the jury and police officers testified about the carnage they encountered when responding to the scene.
The defense teams for both of these defendants filed pretrial motions to move the trials based on the notoriety of the cases. The trial judges in both cases denied the defendants’ respective motions. Tsarnaev has renewed his motion repeatedly, arguing that his case should be transferred to Washington D.C., as it will not be possible to find Massachusetts residents who are not emotionally invested in the case. The judge disagreed, and after a lengthy selection process, a jury was eventually seated.