Jurors ask for exhibit list in Hernandez trial


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.

Hernandez lawyer’s stunning claim defies logic, evidence

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.

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


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.

Hernandez defense relies on bizarre PCP argument


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.

Hernandez defense rests in less than one day


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.

Aaron Hernandez knew that beating NFL drug tests is easy


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.

Hernandez defense won’t last long


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.

Prosecution rests in Aaron Hernandez trial


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.

Key witness in Hernandez case can’t give key testimony


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.

Patriots security chief confirms Hernandez’s alibi attempt


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.

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


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.

Robert Kraft takes the stand at Aaron Hernandez murder trial

Getty Images

The Patriots had largely been able to keep themselves at arms length from the Aaron Hernandez murder trial, until today.

Via multiple reports, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is in the Fall River Justice Center today, and has been called to the stand.

Trainer Brian McDonough was called to the stand in late February to testify about a series of text messages he exchanged with Hernandez. McDonough doesn’t work for the team, but worked with a number of players at Gillette Stadium.

Coach Bill Belichick and linebacker Brandon Spikes are also on the witness list, though it’s unclear if they’ll actually be asked to testify.

Jenkins admits to disposing of box, at Hernandez’s request


Shayanna Jenkins, the fiancée of accused triple-murderer Aaron Hernandez, previously faced perjury charges for allegedly lying to a grand jury about having no knowledge of disposing of a box that may have contained a key piece of evidence in the Odin Lloyd murder case.  At the trial regarding the June 2013 shooting death of Lloyd, Jenkins has admitted to disposing of the box — although she claimed to have no knowledge of its contents.

“He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box from our house,” Jenkins testified Monday, via Greg Bedard of TheMMQB.com.

“I believe he said it was important, I’m not sure,” Jenkins added.  She later explained that she doesn’t remember whether he told her specifically why the box should be removed.

Jenkins admitted that she indeed disposed of the box, but that she doesn’t remember where she disposed of it.

Prosecutors have long believed that the box contained the murder weapon, a Glock used to repeatedly shoot Lloyd.  And the jury now has enough evidence to account for the absence of the murder weapon, since common sense suggests that innocent people rarely instruct a loved one to remove a box with unknown contents from the house during the early stages of an investigation arising from the murder of a friend whose body was found not far from the house from which the mystery box was removed and disposed.

On Friday, Jenkins admitted that she asked Hernandez if he killed Lloyd, and that Hernandez denied it.  The mere fact that she asked the question could become strong circumstantial evidence of guilty during jury deliberations.  While Hernandez’s denial is as useful as the standard response to the “do I look fat in these jeans?” question, the “hey, did you kill that guy?” question rarely gets floated in the households of the non-criminal.

Strange developments at Hernandez trial


On Thursday, a bomb threat interrupted the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial.  On Friday, things could get even more interesting.

The day has begun with Judge E. Susan Garsh individually questioning the jurors, in the presence of the lawyers and Hernandez.  Via Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated, the jurors were standing two feet from Hernandez while fielding and answering questions.

It’s not known what the jurors are being asked, but it’s entirely possible (if not probable) that the judge and the lawyers are ensuring that each juror will continue to serve without bias or prejudice in the aftermath of Thursday’s events, for which an arrest has been made.

Once testimony resumes, Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, is expected to testify.  Via Michele Steele of ESPN, Jenkins has arrived in court wearing her engagement ring.  Which suggests that she won’t be flipping on Hernandez today, regardless of the immunity from prosecution that she has received.

Then again, the presence of the ring will make her testimony even more credible, if she provides information that hurts Hernandez’s case.  Prosecutors believe Jenkins disposed of the murder weapon.

Hernandez’s fiancée due to testify on Friday


Apart from Thursday’s bomb threat, the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial hasn’t generated much news in recent weeks.  The circumstantial evidence points to Hernandez as the killer (or at least present during the killing) of Odin Lloyd, but there’s still no clear motive apart from Hernandez being generally reckless, completely unpredictable, and randomly violent.

Things could get far more interesting soon, when Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, shows up to testify.  Per multiple reports, Jenkins is due to take the stand on Friday.

Jenkins has received immunity, which gives the prosecution the power to compel her to testify — or to put her behind bars for contempt of court.  The question becomes whether she goes out of her way to be helpful, or whether she has truly flipped on the father of her child.

One factor that could make Jenkins flip?  A babysitter testified earlier this month that Hernandez once hit on her.  Coincidentally (or not), Jenkins hasn’t been seen in court since March 6.

If Jenkins has indeed flipped, she could testify that she disposed of a box that contained the murder weapon that still has not been found.  Prosecutors believe that’s exactly what she did.