Hernandez jurors finish for the day after asking another question

AP

A second question asked by the jury in the second day of deliberating the second murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez suggests a verdict is close.

Via multiple reports, the jurors posed a question to the presiding judge about a witness intimidation charge against Hernandez. It’s the eighth and final charge of the indictment, which suggests that the jurors possibly have reached a decision as to each of the other seven counts.

Judge Jeffrey Locke sent the jury home for the night, so that the issue could be properly researched and answered. They’ll return Tuesday to consider their work.

The day began with an inflammatory claim of racial bias on the part of the court, given the manner in which the foreperson of the jury was selected. As explained by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Judge Locke designated one of the 15 potential jurors to be the foreperson, before three of them randomly were selected to enter the deliberation process as alternates. Hernandez’s lawyers challenged the decision, arguing that it reflected racial bias.

“Accusing any court of being racist is not only offensive to the individual judge but extraordinarily offensive to the tribunal and the integrity of the tribunal,” Judge Locke said Monday in court.

“We find it offensive, frankly,” argued Hernandez attorney Ronald Sullivan in response. “We find it offensive that with this jury, predominantly filled with people of color, that these people can’t self-govern, they can not self-regulate. That this court, immunized by effect one white juror and makes that juror the leader of the group. We find that offensive.”

“It seems to me it is implicit in that claim that a white woman should have been excluded from that selection based on gender and color,” Locke replied. “Frankly, I find it astounding you would make that claim.”

Judge Locke explained that he typically selects a foreperson before the alternates are picked, and that he makes the designation based on his observations regarding concentration levels displayed by the jurors. Many other jurisdictions allow the jurors to select their own foreperson, usually as the first order of business.

Although the argument riled up the judge, Hernandez’s lawyers need to build potential arguments into the record for appeal purposes. And if, after a conviction, they can make the case to the appellate courts that Judge Locke didn’t act properly in picking the foreperson, that could get Hernandez a new trial with a new jury and, the hope would be, a new outcome.