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Perjury charge dropped against Shayanna Jenkins

Jenkins AP

The fiancée of Aaron Hernandez won’t be joining him in prison.

On Friday, prosecutors dropped a perjury charge against Shayanna Jenkins, via the Associated Press. The prosecutors cited her trial testimony as the reason for no longer seeking criminal penalties for grand jury testimony that they claimed was false.

Judge E. Susan Garsh approved the dismissal, which ends the prosecution of Jenkins.

Asked if she was relieved by the development, Jenkins told reporters, “You have no idea.”

Hernandez currently is serving a life sentence without parole for killing Odin Lloyd, subject to appeal of the jury verdict. Hernandez also faces a double-murder charge, which returns to court next week for a status update.

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Second Hernandez murder case returns to court on May 21

Hernandez AP

Last month, a jury in Bristol County, Massachusetts convicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of murdering Odin Lloyd.  Later this month, a court in Suffolk County, Massachusetts will move closer toward setting a trial date in connection with the allegation that Hernandez killed two men in Boston, 11 months earlier.

Per multiple reports, a status hearing will be held on May 21 for the murder case arising from the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu.  Hernandez will not be present for the hearing.

Presumably, a trial date will be set at that time.  The trial at one point was scheduled to begin in late May.  An indefinite postponement occurred, in deference to the trial arising from the Lloyd murder.

Hernandez currently is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole, subject to appeal of the verdict.  In multiple respects, the second case against him is even stronger.

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Hernandez will be called to testify in Odin Lloyd civil suit

Hernandez AP

After a jury convicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of killing Odin Lloyd, Hernandez mouthed, “You’re wrong.”  He later reportedly said that the jury had gotten in wrong.

Eventually, Hernandez will get a chance to prove it.

Via the Associated Press, lawyer Doug Sheff told reporters on Wednesday that Hernandez will be called to testify in the wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by the estate of Odin Lloyd.

The Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination evaporates once the criminal process has ended.  However, the criminal process won’t completely end until Hernandez’s appeal has resolved, since he potentially could get a new trial.  It’s possible, if not likely, that the civil lawsuit will have to wait, if the goal will be to force Hernandez to tell his story.

If the goal is to secure compensation from Hernandez, it could be smarter to go forward as quickly as possible, without his testimony.  With two other alleged murder victims pursuing civil claims and Alexander Bradley suing Hernandez for shooting Bradley in the face, the money may not be there later — especially as Hernandez continues to rack up legal bills in his various prosecutions.

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Sheriff says Aaron Hernandez views jail “more like training camp”

Aaron Hernandez AP

The man who was in charge of Aaron Hernandez’s last 18 months in jail said the former Patriots tight end should fit right in now that he’s been sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder.

He doesn’t really look at it as jail,” Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson told the Associated Press. “It’s more like training camp.”

Hodgson described Hernandez as a prisoner who got by on his charm, though one who reacted poorly to perceived “disrespect” (which might explain why he was convicted of killing Odin Lloyd).

Hodgson said not even the guilty verdict changed Hernandez’s demeanor, recalling him saying: “I’ll miss you guys, but they got it wrong. . . .

“He didn’t really have much of a change in his demeanor. He pretty much still had a swagger in his step.”

Hodgson also said Hernandez tried to trade on his charisma and status as a former football player to his advantage.

“He would make every effort to get extra sandwiches,” Hodgson said. “He would just try to convince the officers to give him more than what they otherwise could get.”

While Hodgson said Hernandez was generally polite, he did get into a fight with another inmate, and was “accused of threatening to kill a prison guard and his family.”

It’s almost like he’s a bad guy, or something.

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Reese admits Patriots knew Hernandez had issues

Hernandez Getty Images

So what did the Patriots know about Aaron Hernandez when making him a fourth-round pick in 2010?  According to former Patriots employee Floyd Reese, plenty.

Reese, who began hosting a radio show this week in Nashville, said during an interview of Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com that the Patriots were aware that Hernandez had issues at the University of Florida.

“When he was at Florida, he had some issues there too, there were some things that went on,” Reese said, via Bedard.  “We all knew about it.  It was just from our standpoint, we were getting a first-round talent in the fourth round under a contract that was going to keep him in line or it wasn’t going to cost us a penny.  The real downside for us was the fourth-round pick.”

And that’s why teams will continue to take chances on talented players with red flags.  At a certain point in the draft, it’s worth the risk to roll the dice on a player who may end up being a steal.  The downside, as Reese said, is the squandering of the lower-round pick.

That’s why the only way to truly deter teams from taking chances on players whose talent outweighs the risk of the low-round pick used to acquire him is to strip other (and higher) draft picks from teams who take that chance and have it blow up on them.

Unfortunately for the Patriots, Hernandez did nothing in his early years with the team (that they knew about) that caused them to be concerned.

“We knew he had some issues prior,” Reese said.  “[Former Florida coach] Urban Meyer and Bill [Belichick] were very, very close, and I think Urban convinced Bill that, you know, that these things weren’t going to be an issue.  When we structured his first contract, his rookie contract, we probably had 75 percent of the money in the contract set up so that he would only make it if he stayed out of trouble, didn’t miss meetings, was always there doing the right thing.  And for the period of the original contract, he lived up to every bit of it.  So it turned out well. Of course, after that, after he signed [a $40 million contract extension], things kind of went awry.”

Things actually went awry before the contract was signed; Hernandez pulled the trigger multiple times in Boston, killing two men in the process, before he used that same hand to sign his long-term deal.  The Patriots obviously didn’t know that things had taken such a negative turn.

As Tom Curran of CSN New England said on Wednesday’s PFT Live, maybe the Patriots should have known that something wasn’t right with Hernandez, generally.  Given that they already were on notice regarding potential issues at Florida when drafting him, team security should have been paying closer attention to Hernandez’s lifestyle, his whereabouts, and his overall conduct.

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Furtado, Abreu families await justice in second Hernandez trial

Hernandez AP

Now that a Bristol County, Massachusetts jury has convicted former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez of first-degree murder in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd in June 2013, a Suffolk County, Massachusetts jury can focus on whether Hernandez killed Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu eleven months earlier.

Via the Boston Globe, the families of Furtado and Abreu held a press conference Wednesday night as a reminder that, while justice has been done for Lloyd, the process is far from complete for Hernandez’s other alleged victims.

“They know that their day is coming,” said attorney William T. Kennedy, who represents the families in a civil lawsuit previously filed against Hernandez. “They’re prepared to do what is necessary to see that justice is done for their two sons. . . . The fact that they’re going to have to now confront again the loss of their two sons is not an easy task for them to take, but it is something that they are committed to seeing is done.”

Prosecutors claim that Hernandez fired five shots into a car carrying Abreu, Furtado, and another man after Abreu bumped into Hernandez in a club in Boston’s South End, causing Hernandez to spill a drink. A trial date is expected to be selected “in the coming days.”

“Justice in America is very strong,” said Safiro Furtado’s father, Salvador.  “I believe in justice in America.”

Justice could be easier to obtain in the next trial, given that the second case against Hernandez includes a murder weapon, eyewitness accounts, and clear evidence of a motive.

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Jurors were shocked by concession that Hernandez witnessed the murder

Jurors AP

The jurors who determined that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd conducted a joint press conference on Wednesday, making plenty of interesting observations about the process that ended with Hernandez being convicted.

Most significantly, the jurors expressed surprise that defense lawyer James Sultan admitted during closing arguments that Hernandez witnessed the murder.

We were all shocked by that,” one of the jurors said, via the Boston Globe.  The others expressed agreement with that sentiment.

It was shocking for multiple reasons. First, there was no testimony or other evidence introduced at trial placing Hernandez at the scene of the shooting.  Second, the notion that Hernandez saw someone kill his future brother-in-law (as Sultan also suggested during closing arguments) and then brought the murderer back to Hernandez’s home, where his infant daughter was sleeping, made no sense.

The effort to sneak in evidence that hadn’t been introduced at trial arose from a desire to supply an alternative explanation to the theory that Hernandez killed Lloyd.  In hindsight, it would have been better to stick with the “it wasn’t me” defense, and to poke repeatedly at holes in the government’s failure to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was.

That tactic could result in an eventual effort by Hernandez to prove that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, one of the common post-trial strategies for attacking a verdict — and for getting a new trial.  For now, it’s one of the reasons the jury rejected the idea that Hernandez  should be acquitted.

The jurors also said they were surprised to learn that Hernandez faces multiple other allegations, including the 2012 double murder in Boston and the 2013 shooting of Alexander Bradley, who testified in connection with the Lloyd murder.  They said that the news made them feel vindicated about their decision.

This assumes one or more of them didn’t already know about the other allegations.  At least one surely did, and he or she is surely smart enough not to admit it.

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Aaron Hernandez will be imprisoned near Gillette Stadium

Aaron Hernandez AP

Aaron Hernandez used to hear the cheers inside Gillette Stadium.

He’ll likely hear them again, from a much different vantage point.

The former Patriots tight end was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, and will be sent to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction in Walpole, Mass., which is around a mile away from the place he used to play.

Based on Hernandez’s reaction today (or lack thereof), it’s hard to tell how it would impact him behind prison walls.

But it does create a stark visual of how far he’s fallen, and how fast.

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Brandon Spikes expresses confusion in wake of Hernandez verdict

Spikes Getty Images

Free-agent linebacker Brandon Spikes could end up being a free agent a while longer thanks to a tweet he posted in the aftermath of the Aaron Hernandez murder verdict.

I’m confused about the justice system these days,” Spikes (a former teammate of Hernandez’s at Florida and with the Patriots) tweeted in scream-at-your-eyeballs all caps after the finding of guilt was announced.

There’s nothing to be confused about. The evidence, while circumstantial, was overwhelming. Ultimately, Hernandez’s lawyer conceded that the former Patriots tight end witnessed the killing. Which when coupled with surveillance footage generated by cameras Hernandez placed in and around his home made no sense.

The theory thrown at the wall like a glob of mud by Hernandez’s attorney meant that Hernandez invited the guy (Carlos Ortiz or Ernest Wallace) who had just shot and killed Odin Lloyd back to Hernandez’s home, where Hernandez’s infant daughter was sleeping.

If Spikes should be confused about anything, he should be confused about that. And if he continues to linger on the open market after coming close to breaking out one of the Pouncey twins “Free Hernandez” hats, Spikes shouldn’t be confused about that.

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Jury convicts Aaron Hernandez of first-degree murder

The words "blood" and "sweat" are seen tattooed on the hands of former NFL player Hernandez, as he appears in court for a motion hearing in Attleborough Reuters

The first Aaron Hernandez murder case has made the next Aaron Hernandez murder case largely moot.

A jury in Bristol County, Massachusetts has convicted the former Patriots tight end on all counts, including most importantly the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd. The jury also found that the killing occurred with “extreme atrocity or cruelty,” but not with premeditation.

The verdict means Hernandez will spend the rest of his life in prison, without the possibility of parole.

Hernandez has appeal rights, which surely will be pursued aggressively. Until then Hernandez will remain in custody, and the case involving allegations that Hernandez killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012 will proceed.

The verdict came after 135 witnesses, 439 exhibits, and more than a week of deliberations.

Hernandez had no obvious reaction to the verdict, but there was an audible gasp from those seated in the courtroom, with Hernandez’s mother and fiancée sobbing throughout the rest of the proceedings. As Judge E. Susan Garsh thanked the jury for their service, a law-enforcement officer applied handcuffs and shackles to Hernandez, who seemed to be on the edge of a breaking down.

Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace will be separately tried for their role in the killing. In closing arguments, lawyer James Sultan suggested that Hernandez merely witnessed a murder committed by one of the other two men.

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Hernandez verdict reached

Aaron Hernandez AP

Earlier this morning, I fired a spitball at the possibility that a verdict in the first Aaron Hernandez case could come early in any given day of deliberations, if the jury reaches a tentative verdict at the end of an afternoon of deliberations, decides to sleep on it, and then finalizes it the next morning.

That’s apparently what has happened in Bristol County, Massachusetts, where a verdict has been reached after more than a week of deliberations.

Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd. He also faces firearms and weapons charges.

It will be announced soon. Stay tuned for full reaction and analysis here.

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Jurors continue to deliberate in Hernandez case

Annex - Fonda, Henry (12 Angry Men)_01

The jury has now had the Aaron Hernandez murder case for more than a week, with no end in sight to their deliberations.

In theory, a decision can come at any time. The longer the deliberations go, the greater the chance that, on any given morning, a verdict will arrive fairly quickly, since it’s not uncommon for jurors to reach a tentative decision late in a given day, sleep on it, and finalize things the next morning.

The jurors started last Tuesday, and they have devoted well over 30 hours to the process. Most importantly, they have yet to send a note to Judge E. Susan Garsh asking “what if we can’t reach a unanimous verdict?” or any other message suggesting a deadlock.

A quick verdict in a case of this magnitude is usually bad for the prosecution. As the deliberations linger, it becomes harder to predict what ultimately will happen. With 439 exhibits and 135 witnesses, there’s a lot of material to process.

Ultimately, however, there aren’t many key facts on which the case can turn. One of Hernandez’s lawyers admitted during closing arguments that the former Patriots tight end was present when Odin Lloyd was shot and killed. The question is whether the prosecution has established beyond a preponderance of the evidence that Hernandez was involved.

The length of the deliberations obviously points to a difference of opinion in the jury room. Which means that those who believe Hernandez is guilty are trying to persuade those who believe he is innocent. Notwithstanding the constantly-repeated admonition from Judge Garsh to do no outside research on the case, surely at least some of the jurors while in the privacy of their own homes have opted to poke around the Internet for more information about the case and about Hernandez, given the consequences of the decision they’ll be making.

Eventually, they’ll make a decision — even if the decision is that they can’t make a decision. And even if Hernandez is acquitted on all charges, he won’t be strolling out of the courthouse. He’ll remain in custody for another trial involving charges of double murder from 11 months before the killing of Odin Lloyd.

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Hernandez jury enters fifth day of deliberations

Hernandez AP

No news was no news on Monday from the Aaron Hernandez trial, with the jury not reaching a verdict in the fifth full day of deliberations.

Actually, there was some news.  The jurors want smoke breaks.  And they’ll get smoke breaks.  Which could help keep any tensions under control.

Per the Associated Press, the jury has deliberated more than 27 hours since last Tuesday afternoon.  Hernandez faces first- and second-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Odin Lloyd, along with a firearms and ammunition charges.

The longer the process takes, the greater the likelihood of a hung jury.  But the first hint of a problem has yet to emerge — the jury asking the judge via a note, “What happens if we can’t make a decision?”

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Hernandez jury will deliberate again, until 1:00 p.m. ET

Hernandez AP

The jury has returned to the Bristol Superior Court for the third full day of deliberations in the first Aaron Hernandez murder case.  Per multiple reports, they’ll go only until 1:00 p.m. ET — unless they are close to a verdict.

It’s unclear why they’ll deliberate for only half of a day.  For some jurors, the impending arrival of a weekend can nudge them toward hammering out their differences and reaching a unanimous conclusion.  For that reason, the placement of a 1:00 p.m. ET deadline could be aimed at guarding against a sudden, late-afternoon consensus arising from a desire to just be done with it.

Regardless, the parties apparently realize a Friday verdict is possible.  Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, is at the courthouse.

The longer the deliberations take, the greater the possibility of a hung jury.  Typically, that process commences with the jury sending the judge a note posing the question of what happens if they can’t reach a unanimous verdict.  At that point, Judge E. Susan Garsh possibly will then make what’s known as an “Allen charge,” derived from an 1896 U.S. Supreme Court that authorized the judge to explain that, if they can’t reach a verdict, the case may have to be tried again from scratch.  The goal at that point is to get the folks in the minority to reconsider their positions and to potentially relent to the majority.

The judge won’t say or do anything until the jury indicates difficulty in reaching a verdict.  Given the number of days the trial consumed and the sheer volume of evidence introduced, it’s possible that the real work won’t begin until next week.

Then again, anything is possible when it comes to the inner workings of a jury, the ultimate American sausage machine of justice.

UPDATE 10:37 a.m. ET:  Via Lindsay Adler of BuzzFeedNews, the jurors requested the 1:00 p.m. ET dismissal.

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Hernandez Judge bans news photographer from courthouse for following jurors

Cusanelli AP

The jury responsible for the first Aaron Hernandez murder case has now been deliberating for two full days and part of another.  Because of something that happened after the first full day of deliberations, a Boston TV news photographer has been ordered to stay out of the courthouse until a verdict is reached.

Via the Boston Globe, Judge E. Susan Garsh has banned Robert Cusanelli from entering the Bristol County Superior Court building and from driving a WHDH-TV vehicle for the purpose of doing reporting work on the case.

Cusanelli admitted while testifying that he followed the bus that takes the jurors to their cars.  He said he “thought it would be a good idea” to figure out where they parked.

Cusanelli’s cover was blown because he opted to follow the bus in a van bearing conspicuously the letters W, H, D, and H, in that specific order.  He said in court that he has made no effort to contact or interact with the jurors.

WHDH separately explained that it hopes to be able to win the race to interview jurors after the case, a common practice following the rendering of a verdict in a high-profile prosecution.  Judge Garsh warned all news organizations that any attempt to contact jurors while the case is pending could result in serious criminal sanctions.

“To all of you, you cannot approach, question, harass, or follow any juror and there are state felony statues that prohibit any form of juror harassment,” Judge Garsh said.

The deliberations will continue on Friday at 9:00 a.m. ET.  If a unanimous verdict can’t be reached, a mistrial will be declared.  And the entire case possibly would be tried all over again, with a new jury.

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