Trying to Make Sense of Aaron Hernandez
Aaron Hernandez stands a very good chance of spending the rest of his life in prison. It's a remarkable fall for a guy who signed a five year $37.5 million contract extension last year. Early this morning news also broke that police are investigating Hernandez in connection with a double murder in Boston last year.
If you guys are at all like me -- and unfortunately for your employers many of you are -- you have tons of questions about the Aaron Hernandez case.
So let's dive in and examine the case against Hernandez and several remaining questions.
We all know Hernandez is dumb, but does he have any legitimate defenses to the murder charge? What do we still need to know?
1. What's the prosecution's best evidence?
It's incredibly substantial.
Here it is succinctly summed up.
The prosecution alleges that Hernandez orchestrated the execution of Odin Lloyd.
The prosecution has Aaron Hernandez on surveillance tape with a handgun -- a handgun which they presently can't find -- texting his buddies that you can't trust anyone before heading out for the night with two other men to pick up the victim in a rental car. They can trace Hernandez's movement for the entire trip to the victim's home -- including a stop at a local convenience store to buy bubble gum and marijuana rolling papers. The prosecution knows that Hernandez picked up Lloyd and that Hernandez and two other individuals took him to the murder scene.
Along the way the victim texted his sister to make sure she knew who he was with. The victim's final text after identifying Hernandez as "NFL"? "Just so you know."
He was shot five times shortly thereafter.
Prosecutors have witnesses who can pinpoint the time that they heard the gunshots and two minutes after those shots were fired they have surveillance video of Hernandez returning to his home with the other two men in the car.
As is that wasn't enough prosecutors also found bubble gum at the murder scene -- the same brand that Hernandez purchased earlier in the evening -- as well as a shell casing from the murder weapon in the rental car that Hernandez returned.
That, my friends, is one hell of a strong case for the prosecution.
2. What's Hernandez's best defense?
First, you combat all the prosecution's evidence. The text messages are hearsay, fight their inclusion by arguing against their authenticity and that they don't fit a hearsay exception which would overcome the general inadmissibility of hearsay evidence at trial. (Hearsay is an out-of-court statement being offered for the truth of the matter stated.)
For instance, how do you authenticate the victim's texts since he isn't alive to testify he sent them? Are they admissible under the hearsay exceptions? I think the judge will rule that they are, but it's a battleground for Hernandez's attorneys to fight. It also provides a definite record on appeal if the defense believes some evidence was improperly admitted.
The same objections are true of Hernandez's own texts -- which the prosecution will use to show a motive -- and the video surveillance tapes.
Again, I think all these texts and video will be admissible, but the defense will challenge all of it.
Hernandez has a high-powered legal team that will fight all evidence admitted at trial. Knocking some of the evidence out greatly increases Hernandez's odds of showing reasonable doubt.
Assuming that everything discussed at the arraignment is admissible -- which is a broad assumption -- the best defense Hernandez's attorney's can rely on right now is there isn't yet an eyewitness to the shooting. (This assumes that the other two men in the vehicle with Hernandez refuse to testify against him). So while the prosecution can place Hernandez at the murder scene with the victim, they can't prove that he shot him.
Clearly Lloyd was killed, but maybe someone else did the shooting.
So that's where you'd focus your defense, on the absence of an eyewitness and you'd combine that with the absence of a murder weapon. Yes, it's a weak foundation, but his defense attorney doesn't have to prove Hernandez didn't commit the crime, just that there's a reasonable doubt that he might not have done it.
The more likely outcome, however, is that Hernandez's attorney will try to broker a deal here to ensure that Hernandez doesn't spend the rest of his life behind bars.
3. What about the other two guys in the car?
What will those two men do and who are they?
So far only one of these men has been arrested and that man's being held on $1.5 million bail.
Right now the prosecution's theory is that Hernandez was the ringleader of this murder.
What are they basing that theory on? Has at least one of the men agreed to cooperate in exchange for lenient treatment or is the prosecution's theory of the case based on those text messages and video surveillance?
If there's an eyewitness to the crime then Hernandez's chances of beating the crime drop considerably. Even still, expect Hernandez's attorneys to offer a spirited cross-examination that points out the reason the individual is testifying is to save his own skin.
If all three men refuse to testify against each other, then the prosecution will have to convict Hernandez without an eyewitness or a murder weapon.
4. How many other people has Hernandez killed?
Don't laugh, it's likely there are multiple victims.
This morning came reports that Hernandez is being investigated in connection with a double homicide in Boston in 2012. The Boston Globe reports that Hernandez's motive to kill Lloyd might have been Lloyd's knowledge of this shooting. We already know that Hernandez was questioned in relation to a 2007 double shooting in Gainesville and a civil lawsuit was recently filed in south Florida alleging that Hernandez shot a passenger in his car in the face after a strip club disagreement before dumping him outside into a parking lot.
And these are just the allegations that are public.
The more I read about Hernandez's alleged murder, the more it sounds like the actions of a man who believed he was above the law.
You killed someone a half-mile from your house execution style because he was disloyal?
This wasn't a spur of the moment passion crime, these were the actions of a man who has been doing this for a while. You don't just end up committing an execution style murder if your previous worst crime was smoking pot.
I honestly think Hernandez has killed multiple people before this.
That's why I don't think this was so much a panic -- to leave this much evidence behind? -- as it was the actions of a cocky murderer who believed he could get away with anything.
Could Aaron Hernandez be a serial killer?
5. If only Urban Meyer had any clue that his tight end was a sociopathic killer.
I mean, aside from the investigation into a Gainesville shooting and the picture he took of himself holding a gun in front of the mirror.
I mean, raise your hand if you haven't posed with an unlicensed hand gun in front of the mirror with your finger on the trigger when you were 19.
We've all been there, right?
How crazy is it that a college kid has a gun anyway? As a general rule, if you ever needed a gun while you were in college you were making some horribly, horribly misguided decisions. A college campus is one of the safest places on earth.
By the way, some people have taken issue with my contention that Urban Meyer's culture at Florida enabled Aaron Hernandez. You can read that piece here. (Although, great credit to them, the majority of y'all saw my point. Including many Florida fans.)
But would any of those people who disagreed with me take issue with the fact that the right culture can help kids who might otherwise end up in trouble stay out of trouble? No, right? I mean, that's one of the goals of college sports, to take kids who might otherwise have failed and help them succeed. We all believe this is possible, right, that the right influence and culture can change lives? So if the right culture and influence can help turn a 17 or 18 year old kid in the right direction, how can the wrong culture or environment not harm a kid?
I'm not saying Urban Meyer is directly responsible for Hernandez's crime -- that's ridiculous -- what I'm saying is that Meyer fostered a football culture where Hernandez believed he could get away with doing the wrong thing and not face any consequences for his actions.
The ensuing evidence in Hernandez's life suggests he took that lesson and ran with it.
6. How dumb is Hernandez?
First, Hernandez comes from the mean streets of Bristol, Connecticut.
How many people do you think want to mess with the guy who is over six feet tall and weighs more than 250 pounds in that environment? Probably not many people in Connecticut, right?
Yet somehow Hernandez felt the need to be a member of a gang there.
What did he need protection from in Connecticut?
I'll tell you, rich people.
Rich people can be terrifying. What with their fancy cars and their tendency towards overtipping at overpriced restaurants.
Can't trust 'em.
Second, Hernandez just signed a $37.5 million dollar contract.
Assuming he was still involved in the drug trade in some way through this gang -- and why else would you have 16 surveillance cameras on your house? -- how much money could Hernandez reasonably make from dealing drugs?
Maybe $300k a year.
I mean, it's not like Hernandez was running a Colombian cartel and banking millions in profits. He was way down the drug dealing hierarchy.
So he risked his massive sports contract to make less off drug dealing than he could have off yearly interest on his $13 million signing bonus?
What an idiot.
7. Hernandez has an eight month old daughter.
Even if you'd been doing a ton of stupid things in the past, don't you think you might reconsider your decision making once you had a kid?
I'd like to think that Hernandez set up some sort of trust fund for his baby.
But I'm sure he's too dumb to have done that.
Meaning that in addition to never knowing her dad, Hernandez's daughter is unlikely to ever see any of his money to pay for college or her life expenses.
That's because every dollar Hernandez still has will be spent on lawyers and civil suit wrongful death settlements.
Those were the days.
Did anyone care about what Aaron Hernandez was doing at all?
Clearly the answer was no.