A jury found Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder in the first degree for the 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, ending forever his life of NFL fame and fortune.
A Bristol County jury of seven women and five men deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before reaching a unanimous verdict on the former New England Patriots star. They said the murder rose to first degree due to Hernandez acting with extreme atrocity or cruelty. The conviction carries a sentence of automatic life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hernandez, 25, stood stone-faced as the verdict was read, only to collapse into a chair as the guilty charges piled on. Behind him, his fiancée Shayanna Jenkins wept uncontrollably on the shoulder of Teri Hernandez, Aaron’s mother. Lloyd’s family, who during the trial made a daily pilgrimage to this old mill town 50 miles south of Boston, wept and embraced as the verdict was read.
“Stay strong, stay strong,” Hernandez mouthed to his mother and Jenkins. Moments later, he was placed in handcuffs and led out of the courtroom.
Hernandez will likely head to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution – Cedar Junction, before being transferred to another facility where he will serve his life sentence.
Lloyd was found shot to death in the early morning hours of June 17, 2013, after Hernandez and two co-conspirators picked the 27-year-old up at his Boston home, and then proceeded to an undeveloped piece of land behind an industrial park in North Attleboro, Mass. – just a few minutes from Hernandez’s home.
“The perfect spot to kill somebody,” prosecutor William McCauley said in closing arguments of the dark, out-of-the-way area called Corliss Landing. “No witnesses, other than the killers.”
The prosecution overcame the lack of testifying eye witnesses by painstakingly piecing together a mountain of circumstantial, forensic evidence and so-called “electronic witnesses” that was so convincing it forced the defense during closing arguments to change tactics and concede that Hernandez was at the murder site. They just claimed he didn’t do it, but rather witnessed a possible PCP-rage killing by either Ernest Wallace or Carlos Ortiz, friends of Hernandez and low-level drug dealers in Connecticut.
Much of the most powerful evidence against Hernandez was taken from his own home security system. Jurors were able to see Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz arrive at the house minutes after the murder, cementing the prosecution timeline. Hernandez was soon after seen inside his home carrying what an expert identified as a Glock .45 semiautomatic pistol that prosecutors say was the murder weapon.
Later that same day all three men lounged around the home and the outdoor pool, drinking smoothies made by Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins. The following day video showed Jenkins removing a box from the basement, which she said she did at Hernandez’s request. She took it, she said, to a nearby dumpster, although she couldn’t recall where.
Under Massachusetts’ “Joint Venture” law, the prosecution was not required to prove Hernandez pulled the trigger, although they cited the location of shell casings and various fingerprints to allege that. A guilty verdict could be found by proving Hernandez “intentionally participated in some fashion and that he had or shared the intent” to commit the crime, Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh instructed the jury.
In the end, the prosecution’s evidence was strong enough to overcome the lack of a murder weapon and a clear motive of why Hernandez would kill what appeared to be a friend. Lloyd, a landscaper from Boston, was dating Shaneah Jenkins, the younger sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.
The two sisters occasionally spent days at the trial seated on opposite sides of the tense courtroom. On the stand, Shayanna described their once close relationship as “estranged.”
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