FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) —After 36 hours of deliberations, the jury in the Aaron Hernandez trial returned a guilty verdict, convicting the former NFL star of first-degree murder.
Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, District Attorney Thomas Quinn and Asst. District Attorney William McCauley are addressing the media about the trial.
Hernandez will be held at MCI Cedar Junction in Walpole, Mass.
After the verdict was read, Hernandez’s mother and fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, wept while hugging each other. Lloyd’s mother walked out of the courtroom immediately, while the rest of his family shook hands with prosecutors.
In addition to first-degree murder, jurors convicted Hernandez of both weapons charges against him.
Now that this trial is over, the Suffolk County district attorney will set a date for Hernandez’s next trial for murder charges in the killing of two men in Boston in 2012.
Lloyd’s body was discovered in a North Attleboro industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home. The murder weapon was never recovered.
Two other men are also charged in the murder – Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace. They will be tried separately.
The Hernandez trial has been playing out at Fall River Superior Court since late January. Since then, the jury has heard weeks of testimony and seen dozens of pieces of evidence, including surveillance video and phone records from the days surrounding Lloyd’s death.
During opening statements, prosecutors laid out their case against Hernandez and his co-defendants.
“They left evidence at the scene, they took evidence with them,” said prosecutor Patrick Bomberg. “They created evidence, and they tried to and in some cases were successful in destroying evidence.”
The defense insisted from the start that the investigation was sloppy and unprofessional.
“Aaron Hernandez is not guilty. We are here because the police and the prosecutors targeted Aaron from the very beginning,” said defense attorney Michael Fee.
Then began a parade of more than 100 witnesses. Lloyd’s girlfriend, Shaneah Jenkins, testified that her sister, Hernandez’s fiancee, became secretive after Lloyd’s death.
Lloyd’s mother also took the stand, and refuted the defense’s claims that Hernandez and Lloyd were good friends.
The focus shifted from Lloyd’s family to the crime scene, with police describing the evidence they recovered and the defense questioning how said evidence was handled.
On Feb. 6, jurors visited sites crucial to the case, including the homes of both Hernandez and Lloyd and the murder scene.
Later, prosecutors showed video of tire tracks and shoe prints at the crime scene, along with a .22 caliber gun found nearby. It was determined not to be the murder weapon, but a firearm linked to an associate of Hernandez’s.
Week four in the trial included surveillance video of Hernandez dismantling his cell phone right after talking with police. The jury also heard about a .45 caliber shell casing with chewed blue bubble gum stuck to it, which was found inside Hernandez’s rental car the day after Lloyd’s body was discovered.
A convenience store clerk testified that he sold Hernandez blue Bubblicious gum the same day Lloyd was killed.
A neighbor’s surveillance video showed Lloyd leaving his Boston home for the final time and entering a silver Nissan Altima, which prosecutors said was the car rented by Hernandez.
The following week began with workers describing noises they heard at the industrial park around the time of Lloyd’s death.
“I heard a loud bang, maybe four or five times,” Barbara Chan testified.
A housekeeper told the jury that Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, was crying and appeared nervous after driving away with a full trash bag the day after Lloyd was murdered. Prosecutors allege the bag contained evidence.
Gas station surveillance video from the night of Lloyd’s death showed Hernandez with co-defendant Carlos Ortiz, who was wearing a white towel around his neck. Investigators discovered a white towel at the murder scene.
As the trial entered March, Lloyd’s sister recalled exchanging text messages with her brother shortly before his death. The jury was not allowed to hear what those texts said.
Then came the DNA found on a cigarette butt at the crime scene. A forensics expert told the jury that statistically there’s no chance the DNA came from anyone other than Hernandez.
The next week, several witnesses testified about Hernandez’s night out at a Boston nightclub with Lloyd days before the murder, including a valet manager who said he saw a gun in Hernandez’s waistband. Prosecutors believe something happened inside the club that angered Hernandez.
“He seemed angry. He looked like he was upset,” Samson Michael recalled.
The focus then shifted to Hernandez’s footwear, and whether the sneakers he was wearing the night of Lloyd’s murder matched footprints found at the scene.
Prosecutors turned their attention to co-defendants Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace and Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, who pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. She’s accused of helping Wallace flee to Florida after the murder.
The following week, the jury heard from a number of witnesses granted immunity, including Gion Jackson, who once owned the gun found near the murder scene, Hernandez’s cousin, Jennifer Mercado, who answered “I don’t remember” to dozens of questions, and finally – his fiance, Shayanna Jenkins.
“He told me to go downstairs in our storage room and remove a box from our home,” she testified, before saying Hernandez didn’t specify what was inside the box.
On March 31, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft took the stand and recalled his last conversation with Hernandez before his arrest.
“He said he was not involved, that he was innocent,” said Kraft.
Then came Alexander Bradley, a former close friend who’s currently suing Hernandez over a 2013 shooting that cost him an eye. However, Bradley was not allowed to mention that incident to the jury.
On April 2, the prosecution called their final witness, state Medical Examiner Dr. William Zane, who said Lloyd was shot six times – and would’ve felt pain. The prosecution rested their case soon after.
Hernandez’s defense team began presenting its case the following Monday. They called just three witnesses to the stand before resting, including a doctor who testified about the effects of PCP. The defense suggested Ortiz and Wallace were during the drug in the hours leading up to Lloyd’s death.
The next day both sides delivered closing arguments, during which the defense dropped a bombshell – saying Hernandez witnessed the killing of Odin Lloyd.
The defense proceeded to try and poke holes in the prosecution’s case, saying they left too much in doubt to convict their client of first-degree murder.
“A murder conviction can’t be based on speculation,” said attorney James Sultan. “He’s not being charged with being an accessory after the fact.”
After the 90 minutes granted to both sides were up – the case was put in the hands of the jury.