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Furtado, Abreu families await justice in second Hernandez trial

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Van from Boston TV station allegedly followed Hernandez jurors home

AP

The wait for a verdict in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial continues on Thursday amid allegations that a Boston television station went a little too far in their attempt to see what jurors were up to during the deliberation phase of the case.

Two jurors told Bristol Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh that a WHDH van followed them home from the courthouse after Wednesday’s session came to an end, leading Judge Garsh to request an opportunity to speak to the person in the van. Judge Garsh said, via the Boston Globe, that she wants that person to “tell me whether anyone in the company directed him” to follow the jurors. WHDH released a statement on the matter.

“This morning, in the Aaron Hernandez trial, the judge questioned 7News as to any impropriety with the jury in the case,” the statement reads. “7News did not approach any juror or talk to any juror. We also did not videotape or take pictures of any juror. We are continuing to work with the court and investigate the situation.”

Judge Garsh said that she is not banning WHDH from covering the trial at this point, but offered a reminder that jury harassment is a felony and said that she could still bar the station based on the answers to the questions she has about their conduct.

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Jurors ask for exhibit list in Hernandez trial

AP

Well, it could be a while until the jury reaches a verdict in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial.

Via ESPN.com, the jurors have asked for an official list of the many exhibits introduced at trial.  They already have the exhibits; the list will allow them to quickly understand what each exhibit is.

For that reason, defense lawyer James Sultan expressed concerns about providing a detailed list of exhibits, since the detailed description would potentially include characterizations that could influence the jurors.  Via multiple reports, the lawyers have agreed on the language of a list of exhibits, which will be given to the jurors.

The development suggests that the jury will need time to parse through a list of 439 exhibits and the exhibits themselves.

It means a quick acquittal won’t be happening.  It doesn’t means Hernandez will be convicted, but it shows that the jury is taking its work seriously.

The jury can find Hernandez guilty of murder (first or second degree), illegal possession of a firearm, and/or illegal possession of ammunition.

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Hernandez lawyer’s stunning claim defies logic, evidence

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Lawyers have extensive discretion when making statements during closing arguments, limited only by the willingness of the opposing lawyer to interrupt with an objection and the presiding judge to sustain it.  As a result, many outlandish claims routinely are made in the name of securing a victory — claims that defy logic and, most importantly, conflict with the evidence introduced during the trial.

On Tuesday, the lawyer presenting the closing argument on behalf of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez made a claim that defies both logic and the evidence.

“He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed something, a shocking killing, committed by someone he knew,” James Sultan told the jury, via ESPN.com.  “He didn’t know what to do, so he just put one foot in front of the other.”

While it became fairly obvious as a result of the testimony offered Monday regarding the potential effects of PCP use that Hernandez’s lawyers want jurors to think Carlos Ortiz or Ernest Wallace shot and killed Odin Lloyd, the trial included no evidence that Hernandez witnessed the killing of Odin Lloyd, primarily because Hernandez didn’t testify.

The notion that Hernandez was “shocked” by the killing of Odin Lloyd (the man Sultan described as during the closing as a close friend and future brother-in-law of Hernandez) also doesn’t mesh with the subsequent events — specifically, Hernandez bringing Lloyd’s killer to Hernandez’s home, where his young daughter was sleeping.

It’s impossible to know how any of us would handle the aftermath of witnessing a murder, but it’s hard to imagine that someone who was shocked by seeing the unexpected murder of a close friend and future family member would bring the killer back to the witness’s home, possibly to watch some TV, play some FIFA, and eat some Fritos.

Sultan’s claim didn’t draw an objection, and it may never be known whether it resonated with the jury.  If Hernandez is convicted, it will mean that it didn’t.  If he’s acquitted, maybe it worked.

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Hernandez’s lawyer attacks “incomplete, biased, and inept” investigation

AP

As of this posting, the prosecution in the Aaron Hernandez murder case is presenting its closing argument.  Earlier today, attorney James Sultan delivered the closing argument on behalf of the former Patriots tight end.

Sultan attacked the entire investigation, calling it “incomplete, biased, and inept.”  The lawyer focused on flaws in the DNA case, which included an expert witness who testified that Hernandez’s DNA was found on a shell casing — but who hadn’t been told by the prosecution that a wad of chewed gum had been stuck to the shell casing when it was found in a dumpster.  If Hernandez chewed that gum, DNA from the gum could have transferred to the shell casing.

The goal, Sultan argued, was to prove that Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd, not to solve the case.  The lawyer pointed to other alleged failures in the investigation and ultimately conceded that Hernandez witnessed a murder committed by someone he knows, essentially blaming Carlos Ortiz and/or Ernest Wallace for the shooting.

Sultan likewise introduced various common-sense questions regarding the alleged plan to kill Lloyd, including the decision to shoot Lloyd in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home, in a town where Lloyd knew no one else, the bringing of two witnesses (Ortiz and Wallace) to the murder scene, and the failure to take from the scene a marijuana blunt that Hernandez and Lloyd both had smoked.

But common sense that would be displayed by rational minds doesn’t always explain the choices made by the irrational and/or inebriated.  No one has accused Aaron Hernandez of being smart; indeed, it was his own surveillance system that showed Hernandez, Ortiz, and Wallace returning to Hernandez’s home after the murder.

If Hernandez had just witnessed Ortiz or Wallace killing Lloyd, why would Hernandez bring them after the murder inside his own home, where his young daughter was sleeping?  That’s a question Sultan wisely avoided.

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Hernandez defense relies on bizarre PCP argument

AP

The case-in-chief presented by the prosecution in the first Aaron Hernandez murder case included 131 witnesses.  The first of only three witnesses presented by Hernandez showed that his lawyers will put plenty of eggs into a fairly bizarre basket.

At closing argument, Hernandez’s lawyers will attempt to show that reasonable doubt as to his guilt exists because it’s possible that Carlos Ortiz and/or Ernest Wallace killed Odin Lloyd in a fit of rage induced by ingestion of PCP.

Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports explains why the testimony of Dr. David Greenblatt possibly did more harm than good, thanks to a skillful cross examination that made the effort to create reasonable doubt seem like spitballs of speculation aimed at sticking to the walls of the jury room, giving those inclined to acquit Hernandez a plausible basis for doing so.  Greenblatt admitted that he doesn’t know if Wallace and/or Ortiz had taken PCP and that it would be impossible to know it without a toxicology report (or without testimony from Wallace and/or Ortiz that they had taken PCP).  Greenblatt also admitted that it would be impossible to know if they’d suffered PCP-induced psychosis that resulted in the shooting of Lloyd.

Greenblatt also admitted that drinking alcohol can lead to violent acts, which as Wetzel notes dovetails with testimony from Hernandez’s fiancée that Hernandez was drunk that night.

The decision to call Greenblatt shows that Hernandez’s lawyers feel compelled to introduce an alternative explanation for a mountain of circumstantial evidence that points to Hernandez committing the murder personally or being sufficiently involved in a joint venture to be culpable.  If the only alternative explanation is that the other two men in the car with Hernandez and Lloyd killed Lloyd in a fit of PCP-related psychosis without any evidence that the two men had taken PCP, Hernandez’s lawyers would have been better off ignoring that angle and harping at closing arguments on the notion that there’s still no murder weapon and no proof of a motive to kill Lloyd, even though proof of motive isn’t technically required.

Thanks to Greenblatt’s testimony, the jury may now be even more inclined to convict Hernandez without a specific motive, embracing the notion that Hernandez killed Lloyd in a fit of drunken rage — especially if the jurors apply common sense to undisputed evidence that Hernandez instructed his fiancée to get rid of a mystery box not by throwing it in the trash at their home but by throwing it in some random dumpster.

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