Skip to content

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?”

Permalink 88 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

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.

Permalink 86 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

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.

Permalink 16 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Van from Boston TV station allegedly followed Hernandez jurors home

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwiwmze3nmq4ytlkzjgyodazndeyn2fimti4nwi5zdm1 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.

Permalink 28 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Jurors ask for exhibit list in Hernandez trial

Hernandez 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.

Permalink 39 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Hernandez lawyer’s stunning claim defies logic, evidence

Hernandez Getty Images

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.

Permalink 83 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

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

Hernandez 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.

Permalink 69 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Hernandez defense relies on bizarre PCP argument

Hernandez 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.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Hernandez defense rests in less than one day

Hernandez AP

It took the prosecution 39 days and 131 witnesses to attempt to prove that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013.  It took Hernandez’s lawyers less than one day — and only three witnesses — to present his defense.

Per multiple reports, three witnesses were called, including an expert witness who testified about the effects of PCP use.  The defense hopes to inject reasonable doubt into the case by suggesting that one of the two men who were with Hernandez and Lloyd (Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace) killed Lloyd while under the influence of PCP.

That theory would be more persuasive if Hernandez, Ortiz, or Wallace were to testify.  But none of the other men who were with Lloyd were called to the stand.

Hernandez was never going to testify, because to do so would have squandered his right against self-incrimination.  (Ortiz and Wallace likely would have asserted their own Fifth Amendment rights, too.)  While the jury will be told not to hold the failure of Hernandez to testify against him, some of the jurors surely will wonder why Hernandez didn’t simply get on the stand and declare that Ortiz or Wallace shot Lloyd, if that’s what happened.

Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, the prosecution has called one witness to the stand as part of its rebuttal case.  Specifically, the prosecution has a witness who will rebut the claims made by Hernandez’s PCP expert.

Barring something unexpected, closing arguments will start Tuesday, and the jury will then begin deliberating its verdict.

Permalink 68 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Aaron Hernandez knew that beating NFL drug tests is easy

Hernandez AP

Aaron Hernandez is an accused murderer, which makes the accusation that he was also a habitual marijuana smoker seem so trivial that it’s barely worth mentioning. But the testimony in Hernandez’s murder trial indicates that Hernandez was a regular pot smoker, and that he managed to smoke pot throughout his NFL career without ever failing an NFL drug test. And that raises a question: How did Hernandez beat the tests?

The answer is, fairly easily.

The NFL’s drug-testing program is really two programs: There’s the program for testing for substances of abuse and the program for testing for performance-enhancing drugs. The PED testing is stringent: Players are subject to unannounced testing all year long, and most players are tested several times over the course of a year. If you’re using PEDs in the NFL and you’re not getting caught, you have to be doing something pretty sophisticated to beat the tests.

But most players are only tested for substances of abuse once a year, before the season starts, and they knew the approximate time of their testing. As a source who was formerly affiliated with the NFL’s testing program told Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Hernandez probably just stopped smoking pot when the testing was coming and then started up again as soon as he had submitted a sample.

“The most logical conclusion is he stopped smoking in June, passed his test in July, then smoked all he wanted for 11 months of the year,” the source said.

In other words, Hernandez knew that it’s easy to beat the NFL’s tests for substances of abuse: Stop using in time for drugs to clear your system, pass your one annual test, then start using again as soon as you’ve submitted your clean sample. Then you’re good to go until the next year, when you’ll have to get clean again, briefly, just until you’ve submitted your annual clean sample. The only exception is that players who are in the substance-abuse program are subject to additional testing. But Hernandez was able to avoid detection well enough to keep himself out of the program.

The NFL probably only tested Hernandez for marijuana four times: Once at the Combine before he was drafted and once during each of the three offseasons of his NFL career. Hernandez admitted before he was drafted that he had used marijuana while playing at Florida, but if he passed all of those NFL-mandated tests, he was free to smoke all he wanted the rest of the time, as long as he could get it out of his system in time to beat the next year’s test. Hernandez was probably tested for PEDs many times during his career, and those samples probably would have come up positive for marijuana if they had been tested for marijuana, but the PED test is separate from the marijuana test.

So if you’re an NFL player using recreational drugs, beating tests is easy, as long as you’re able to stop long enough to get the drugs out of your system. The policy is designed to catch those who have a drug problem so serious that they can’t or won’t stop even when they know the test is coming. Everyone else is free to use for most of the year.

Permalink 136 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Hernandez defense won’t last long

Hernandez AP

On Friday, Judge E. Susan Garsh denied an effort to dismiss the Odin Lloyd murder charge currently pending against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.  On Monday, Hernandez’s lawyers will begin presenting his formal defense.

Via Elizabeth Barber of Reuters, the defense’s case may not last long.  Per Barber, the first witness could be Dr. David Greenblatt, an expert witness who will offer testimony about PCP.  It’s possible that Hernandez’s lawyers will attempt to pin the murder on the other two men in the car with Hernandez and Lloyd, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, claiming that they were under the influence of PCP.

The challenge will be proving that either of the men had taken PCP, unless one or more of the people called in the prosecution’s 120-witness case-in-chief testified that they did.

Judge Garsh has determined that the parties will have 90 minutes to present their closing arguments, which could begin on Tuesday.  The prosecution will slice its presentation into two parts, pushing as much as possible into what amounts to the last word.

Appearing on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports said that the most damning piece of evidence to date came via surveillance video of Hernandez carrying in his house following the murder what appears to be a gun.  An expert witness has testified that it was a Glock semi-automatic pistol, the murder weapon that has still not been recovered — and that may have been in the box that Hernandez’s fiancée disposed of at Hernandez’s direction.

Permalink 30 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Prosecution rests in Aaron Hernandez trial

Hernandez AP

It’s over.  Well, part of it is over.

The prosecution has rested its case in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, arising from the shooting death of Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Judge E. Susan Garsh has told the jurors that the trial will resume Monday, with the defense presenting its case.  Of course, the defense isn’t required to present a case at all, because the prosecution has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Garsh also said that the jury will be getting the case next week, which means that the defense case, the rebuttal case, and the closing arguments will all happen next week.  And it also could mean that there will be a verdict next week.

Conviction or acquittal, Hernandez will remain behind bars, because he faces an allegation that he killed two other men in July 2012.

Permalink 31 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Key witness in Hernandez case can’t give key testimony

Alexander AP

As the prosecution closes in on resting its case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, a man whom Hernandez allegedly shot in the face testified on Wednesday.   But Alexander Bradley wasn’t allowed to explain that he’d been shot in the face.

That’s because the legal system has concluded that evidence of other bad acts by Hernandez can’t be introduced into evidence in the case regarding the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, since neither the alleged shooting of Bradley nor the alleged double murder of two men in Boston in July 2012 have an appropriate connection to the Lloyd murder.  The prosecution tried earlier in the trial to argue that Bradley should be able to talk about the time Hernandez allegedly shot him, because the defense had been suggesting that Lloyd and Hernandez were friends and Hernandez doesn’t shoot his friends.  Bradley and Hernandez also were friends, but that didn’t stop Hernandez from shooting Bradley, allegedly.

And so Bradley, whose face is disfigured as a result of the shooting, testified without the jury knowing that Bradley got that way thanks to a bullet from a gun fired by Hernandez, allegedly.

Of course, this doesn’t mean the jurors don’t know about the Bradley shooting.  The jury isn’t sequestered, which means that the jurors can Google “Aaron Hernandez” all night and all weekend long from their own homes.

What’s that, you say?  The judge has ordered the jurors not to conduct any Internet research about the case?  The judge also has ordered them not to come to any conclusions about Hernandez’s guilt or innocence, but they each surely violated that one a long time ago.

Even without testimony about being shot by Hernandez, Bradley had some relevant information to offer, as explained by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports.  For example, Bradley said he saw Hernandez with a Glock semi-automatic pistol a few months before the Lloyd murder; Lloyd allegedly was shot by a Glock semi-automatic pistol.  Also, Bradley testified that Hernandez had a “lock box, a safe” in his basement, in which Hernandez kept a gun, cash, and marijuana blunts.  Police didn’t find the item when searching Hernandez’s home, which sets the stage for an argument that this is the item Hernandez’s fiancée disposed of at his direction.

It’s not the last time Hernandez will have to hear testimony from Bradley.  Per Wetzel, Bradley is expected to provide eyewitness testimony regarding the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012.

Permalink 34 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Patriots security chief confirms Hernandez’s alibi attempt

Hernandez AP

At the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft was followed to the witness stand by Patriots security director Mark Briggs.  And Briggs confirmed the most important aspect of Kraft’s testimony.

Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Briggs (like Kraft) testified that Hernandez said he didn’t kill Lloyd, and that Hernandez was at a “club.”

He swore on his baby’s life he was telling the truth,” Briggs said of Hernandez.

Hernandez definitely wasn’t telling the truth about his whereabouts.  The prosecution will now hope that this will help the jury conclude he also wasn’t telling the truth about his innocence.

Permalink 58 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Kraft tells jury Hernandez said he was in “club” during shooting

Hernandez AP

Testifying on Tuesday in the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft provided a piece of evidence that could be very useful for the prosecution.

Via Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, Kraft told jurors that Hernandez denied involvement in the murder of Odin Lloyd, explaining that he was in a “club” at the time of the shooting.

As Wetzel notes, the evidence introduced to date makes it clear that Hernandez wasn’t in a “club” at the time of the shooting.  Which indicates Hernandez lied to Kraft.

Hernandez may dispute that he gave a false explanation to the man who at the time of the shooting was Hernandez’s ultimate boss.  But Hernandez has only one way to rebut the testimony from Robert Kraft — by taking the witness stand.

That’s where the right to remain silent creates a huge dilemma for a criminal defendant.  While the accused isn’t compelled to testify in court, anything he has said out of court can be used against him.  Since it’s a statement from a party to the lawsuit, it’s not hearsay.  And as it relates to one-on-one communications, it’s unchallenged unless the defendant chooses to waive the right against self-incrimination and testify.

Hernandez most likely won’t be testifying at all.  To do so would expose him to cross-examination. Which could quickly erase any chance his lawyers have of identifying “reasonable doubt” during closing arguments.

Permalink 97 Comments Feed for comments Back to top