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Jury tours Aaron Hernandez’s home

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hasn’t visited his North Attleboro home since June 2013.  On Friday, the jury deciding his fate in Hernandez’s first murder case did.

Via the Boston Herald, the 12-person jury (with five remaining alternates) inspected Hernandez’s home, along with the presiding judge and the lawyers for both sides.  Hernandez did not attend.

“The purpose of the view is to help you better understand the evidence,” Judge E. Susan Garsh told the jurors.  “The observations you make can be used . . . during deliberations.”

The field trip included a visit to Hernandez’s home, Odin Lloyd’s residence, and the industrial park where Lloyd’s body was found.

Previously, Judge Garsh required defense lawyers to hide trophies, religious objects, and family photos in Hernandez’s house.

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Potential Hernandez “stealth juror” spotted, dismissed

Garsh AP

It could end up being a good thing that the 12-person jury deciding whether former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd in 2013 has six alternates.  They eventually may all be needed.

According to the Hartford Courant (via Deadspin), a female juror has been excused after a private hearing involving Judge E. Susan Garsh, the lawyers, and the juror.

Judge Garsh found “credible evidence” that the juror had “discussed evidence and formed an opinion about it.”  Specifically, Judge Garsh found that the juror said that “in the absence of a weapon if would be hard to convict” Hernandez.

It means that the juror may have been a so-called “stealth juror,” who lied about her lack of opinions about the evidence in order to get onto the panel.  As noted by the Courant, the defense previously expressed concern about “stealth jurors.”  Ironically, this is one that could have delivered an acquittal, or at worst a hung jury.

The next question is whether there are other stealth jurors.  Like the number of licks it takes to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never find out.

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Prosecutors say Hernandez DNA found on joint, bullet casing

Hernandez AP

The first Aaron Hernandez murder trial got rolling on Thursday, with opening statements in the case arising from the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

Via the Boston Herald, prosecutors revealed during their overview of the evidence to be introduced two intriguing pieces of information. A marijuana joint was found near Lloyd’s body, and the joint had DNA evidence that matches Hernandez’s. Likewise, a bullet casing found in a rental car used by Hernandez contained DNA matching Hernandez’s.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a jury disregarded overwhelming DNA evidence in a murder case involving a former NFL player. But Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Fee, possibly will need something on the level of an “if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit” moment to overcome the DNA evidence.

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Aaron Hernandez jury seated, trial starts Thursday

Aaron Hernandez AP

The trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd in 2013 will begin on Thursday as a result of the blizzard bearing down on the Northeast.

A jury of 18 people — 13 women and five men — was selected on Monday in Fall River, Massachusetts, but the Hartford Courant reports that Judge E. Susan Garsh pushed back the intended Tuesday start date because the predicted snowfall is expected to leave the area digging out for the next couple of days.

Hernandez and two other men are accused of picking up Lloyd in a car early in the morning of June 17, 2013 and murdering him a short time later. The other men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, will be tried separately.

Prosecutors recently submitted a petition for immunity for Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez’s fiancee, in what’s believed to be a bid to get her to testify against Hernandez at the trial. Jenkins faces a charge of perjury related to the case, but, per the Courant, no immunity had been granted by Monday’s jury selection.

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First Hernandez murder trial could start Tuesday

Hernandez AP

With jury selection nearly complete, the first murder trial against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez could begin as soon as Tuesday, with opening statements.

Via the Associated Press, Judge E. Susan Garsh has cleared a pool of 53 potential jurors.  The judge individually questioned the jurors in search of potential bias, a hardship that would prevent them from serving on a lengthy trial, or any other valid reason to be excused.

The lawyers for the prosecution and for Hernandez will be permitted to eliminate 18 potential jurors each from the panel.  The goal will be to have 18 jurors (12 main jurors and six alternates) in place for Tuesday.

If my math is correct (and it rarely is), Judge Garsh will need to clear one more juror to allow 36 to be stricken by the parties.  With only 53, striking 36 would leave 17.

Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013.  Hernandez faces two other murder charges from an incident in July 2012.

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Hernandez jury selection yields 21 potential jurors, with more to come

Judge AP

What started as more than 1,000 potential jurors for the first Aaron Hernandez murder case is currently much smaller.

Via the Associated Press, the current potential pool of jurors stands at 21 as a result of questioning from Judge E. Susan Garsh.  The process is occurring in open court, but with the questions and answers beyond the hearing of the media or spectators.

The process resumes Tuesday, with more questioning and, presumably, more jurors.  Eventually, a panel of 18 will be selected; 12 jurors and six alternates.

The alternates will be required to sit through the entire trial, hearing all the evidence and being prepared to participate in deliberations if members of the primary panel become unavailable to continue.  Once the trial ends and deliberations begin, the alternates get a “thank you” and “farewell.”

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Hernandez’s lawyers want to know if fiancée has a deal with prosecutor

Jenkins AP

As the first murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez moves toward the selection of a jury and, eventually, the taking of testimony, one fairly significant chunk of testimony could come from Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.

Charged with perjury, Jenkins possibly has a deal that would include resolving the charges in exchange for testimony against Hernandez.  According to Martin Finucane of the Boston Globe, Hernandez’s lawyers want to know if such a deal exists.

Hernandez’s attorneys have filed a motion with the presiding judge seeking an order requiring the prosecutors to “disclose forthwith all promises, rewards, or inducements” made to Jenkins.

Last week, the Globe reported that Jenkins had a confidential meeting with prosecutors and her lawyer, which suggested that she possibly will be negotiating an agreement to testify against Hernandez.  She allegedly lied to the grand jury investigating the case.

The fact that Hernandez’s lawyers had to file a motion to find out whether Jenkins has a deal with prosecutors suggests that the relationship between Hernandez and Jenkins has changed in a significant and fundamental way.  Hernandez fears that she’ll be showing up to testify against him at trial, and Hernandez’s lawyers want to know if the mother of his child is about to send him up the river.

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Phase One of Hernandez jury selection ends

Hernandez AP

The first murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez can’t officially go to trial until a jury is selected.  Over the past three days business days, the first phase of jury selection has unfolded.

Per multiple reports, more than 1,000 prospective jurors completed 51-question surveys.  Topics included whether the jurors are Patriots fans and whether they have attended Patriots games — obvious subjects for screening the members of the prospective jury panel.

Phase Two consists of actually questioning the potential jurors.  Judge E. Susan Garsh has declined a request from CNN that the questioning, which in Massachusetts occurs beyond the hearing of spectators, be made audible for media purposes.  Questioning of jurors will begin Friday.

Hernandez is accused of killing 27-year-old Odin Lloyd in June 2013 near Hernandez’s North Attelborough home.  Hernandez has been indicted on two separate murder charges arising from a July 2012 shooting in Boston.

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Jurors will see Hernandez’s trophy case when touring his home

Dundees

The first Aaron Hernandez murder trial will include, eventually, a field trip.  Jurors will tour the home of the former Patriot.  When they do, they’ll get to see his trophy case, despite an objection by the prosecution.

Via the Associated Press, prosecutors hoped to have the trophy case hidden, so that Hernandez would not “get the benefit of having the jury be impressed by trophies or medals.”

Prosecutors also are concerned about “strategic manipulation” of the home, aimed at making Hernandez look like a family man.  A religious man.  Basically, a non-three-alleged-murders-that-we-know-of man.

Hernandez’s lawyers predictably want the trophies displayed.  “The fact the Mr. Hernandez played for the Patriots, that’s in the case,” one of his lawyers wrote in opposition to the effort to hide the case.  “The trial is about the truth.  This is the truth of his house.”

The skirmish provides a glimpse of the many minor, trivial issues over which lawyers obsess.  Some would say thinking a juror would be more inclined to acquit Hernandez after seeing his trophies underestimates juries.  Some would say that thinking a juror wouldn’t be affected by seeing the trophies overestimates juries.  Either way, both sides in a trial push for the things that could help their clients and oppose the things that could hurt their clients.

Hernandez scored another victory in Tuesday’s final pre-trial conference.  His fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and mother, Terri Hernandez, will be permitted to attend the trial even though they may testify.  This allows them to hear the opening statements and the testimony of other witnesses, which allows them to tailor their own testimony accordingly.  That’s why witnesses who have not yet testified typically are barred from attending a trial.

Jury selection, which had been due to begin Monday, starts Friday.  Still pending, per the Boston Herald, is a request by Hernandez’s lawyers to prevent Bristol County Sheriff Thomas M. Hodgson from talking about Hernandez during the trial.  Hodgson has commented on multiple occasions about Hernandez’s time in the Bristol County jail; Hernandez’s lawyers fear that Hodgson will pop off during the trial.

Of course, that won’t matter if the jurors honor their obligation to avoid media accounts regarding the case.  Then again, if the jurors don’t honor their obligation to avoid media accounts regarding the case, Hernandez has far bigger problems that Hodgson talking about Hernandez’s jailhouse habits.

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First Hernandez case gets new top prosecutor

Hernandez AP

On Monday, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez stands trial on the first of three (yes, three) murder charges.  And the case now has a new lead prosecutor.

With Bristol County district attorney Sam Sutter becoming the mayor of Fall River, outgoing Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed current assistant D.A. Thomas M. Quinn III to serve as acting district attorney.

“I am making this appointment now to assure the stability of the critical work of the office and fully respect the authority of the incoming governor to make his own appointment in due course,” Patrick said in a statement, via CBS Boston.

“It is very important for the office on the eve of one of the most highly publicized trials in the country,” Sutter said in a statement of his own.

Meanwhile, Hernandez’s lawyers have asked that his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and mother, Terri Hernandez, be permitted to attend the trial regarding the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.  Since both are potential witnesses, the normal approach would be to bar them from observing the proceedings and hearing the testimony of other witnesses.

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Possible PCP-based defense hovers over Hernandez trial

Hernandez AP

On Monday, the process will commence for selecting a jury in the first murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  At some point, presumably before the jurors start hearing evidence, the presiding judge has a decision to make regarding the drug that Louis Winthrope III was framed for selling in Trading Places.

According to John R. Ellement of the Boston Globe, the prosecution has asked the judge to prevent the defense from calling an expert witness who will testify regarding the effects of PCP use on the brain.  But there’s no proof Hernandez was under the influence of PCP at the time he allegedly shot and killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

“[T]here will be no evidence of the use of PCP by any defendant on the date of the murder,” prosecutors asserted in court papers, per the Globe.  “The defense seeks to mislead the jury by raising the bogey man of the illicit use of PCP without being able to show how it in any way has relevance to the events of the murder.”

If the testimony is intended to set up a “diminished capacity” defense for Hernandez, prosecutors contend that the defendants have failed to provide proper notice of the intended effort to explain the murder.  It’s a risky defense to use, since it forces an awkward fallback position into the theory of the case:  My client didn’t do it, but if he did it was only because he was high on PCP.

It’s also possible that the PCP-related testimony will be used to attack the credibility of co-defendants Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, in the event the prosecution ultimately manages to get useful testimony out of either of them.  However, prosecutors contend that neither Wallace nor Ortiz used PCP within 24 hours of the murder.

It’s also possible that the defense is simply forcing the prosecution to chase ghosts, with no intent to ever actually call the witness to testify at trial.

According to the Globe, prosecutors also want to be permitted to introduce testimony that Hernandez told a childhood friend six weeks before the murder that Hernandez owns a .45 caliber pistol.  The murder weapon, unrecovered by the authorities, was a .45 caliber pistol.

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Hernandez lawyers worry about “stealth jurors”

12AngryMen

With jury selection in first murder case against Aaron Hernandez due to begin in fewer than three weeks, Hernandez’s lawyers have a new concern.

Stealth jurors.

According to John R. Ellement of the Boston Globe, Hernandez’s lawyers fear that folks looking for notoriety or excitement will try to slip through the jury selection process in order to have a crack at putting Hernandez away.

“In criminal prosecutions involving celebrities or prominent persons, one must contemplate the possibility that one or more members of the [jury pool] may harbor illicit intentions and try assiduously — even lie — to become a juror thinking that it will bring them fame or simply thrills,” Hernandez’s lawyers said in court documents. Hernandez’s lawyers have asked for additional “peremptory challenges,” legalese for the number of jurors that a lawyer can strike from the pool without any specific reason or proof of potential bias.  The goal will be to eliminate jurors whom the lawyers think could be inclined to convict Hernandez but who aren’t providing answers in response to questions that would get the potential jurors stricken for cause.

In Massachusetts, judges typically pose questions to potential jurors, with the lawyers not having the ability to do so. Coincidentally, a new law becomes effective on January 1, which will allow the lawyers to directly ask questions to potential jurors. Hernandez’s lawyers have asked Judge E. Susan Garsh to adopt the new procedure.

Given the amount of prejudicial information that has appeared in the media, it’s important for the lawyers to be able to find jurors who aren’t aware of the information or who truthfully will not consider it.  Judge Garsh recently has ruled that evidence regarding the July 2012 shootings of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu shall not be admitted at the trial regarding the unrelated killing of Odin Lloyd.  It would be fairly easy for a potential juror who simply wants to ensure that Hernandez is found guilty to lie about a lack of knowledge regarding those separate allegations.

There may not be stealth jurors, but there could be stealth Patriots fans.  Via NECN.com, Judge Garsh has ruled that no Patriots or other NFL-related gear or logos may be displayed in court.

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Odin Lloyd text messages excluded from evidence in Hernandez trial

Hernandez AP

On January 5, jury selection begins in the first murder trial involving former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  Which means that the balance of the month will feature periodic rulings and decisions regarding the evidence that will or won’t be introduced.

Most recently, Judge E. Susan Garsh has ruled that text messages sent by Odin Lloyd to his sister on the evening of his murder will be excluded from the trial.

“U see who I’m with?” Lloyd texted his sister on the morning of his murder, after he left his home with Hernandez.  “NFL, just so you know.”

The article from Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant doesn’t explain why the evidence was excluded.  Judge Garsh may have concluded that it was hearsay that didn’t fall into any of the various exceptions to the hearsay rule.  (For those interested and/or afflicted with insomnia, the exceptions to the hearsay rule when the person who made the statement isn’t available to testify at trial appear in Rule 804 of the rules of evidence.)  Also, the Confrontation Clause of the Constitution may have contributed to the ruling.

Judge Garsh also determined that texts from Hernandez to his alleged accomplices instructing them to come to Massachusetts from Connecticut on the night of the shooting could be used as evidence, along with surveillance video showing Hernandez and others carrying guns into Hernandez’s house, something that allegedly occurred after Lloyd was shot.

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Hernandez tries to keep evidence of other shootings out of Lloyd trial

Hernandez AP

With jury selection in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial less than a month away, efforts will be made to determine the evidence that will, and that won’t, be introduced against Hernandez in connection with the claim that he shot and killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Predictably, Hernandez has made a request to exclude evidence of other shootings of which he’s accused.

Via the Boston Globe, Hernandez has asked that Judge E. Susan Garsh prohibit evidence regarding the allegation that Hernandez shot and killed Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012, along with evidence that Hernandez allegedly shot and wounded Alexander Bradley in February 2013.

Typically, evidence of other misconduct cannot be introduced against a criminal defendant, subject to certain specific exceptions.  As to the Abreu and Furtado murders, it’s possible that the prosecution will argue that evidence linking Hernandez to those shootings — along with proof Lloyd knew about Hernandez’s involvement — supplies a motive for killing Lloyd.

Meanwhile, the pre-trial proceedings have included the submission of potential witness lists for the trial.  Appearing on the prosecution’s list of more than 300 potential witnesses are Patriots owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, and former Patriots teammate Brandon Spikes.

It’s common for lawyers to identify far more witnesses than ever would be called to testify at trial, both to enhance flexibility when the time comes to determine the final roster of witnesses and to conceal from the opponent any clues regarding trial strategy that a more narrow and realistic list of witnesses may reveal.

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Hernandez double-murder trial delayed

Hernandez AP

The second of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s two murder trials has been postponed.

Originally set for May 28, the case regarding the July 2012 shooting deaths of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado had been scheduled for May 28.  It has been delayed indefinitely.

Hernandez faces trial in January 2015 for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.  Hernandez has been jailed without bond on all charges since his late June 2013 arrest for killing Lloyd.

Jury selection in the Lloyd murder case is due to begin on January 9.

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