Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee acknowledged on the witness stand Friday that she saw a black pistol in her kitchen similar to the one prosecutors allege was used to kill Odin Lloyd.
The drama of Shayanna Jenkins’ long-anticipated testimony at the former NFL star’s murder trial was ratcheted up when lead prosecutor William McCauley walked to the witness stand holding a Glock Model 21 handgun, the type of weapon the state alleges was used in Lloyd’s killing on June 17, 2013.
McCauley asked Jenkins if the pistol in his hand was the same shape as the one she’d seen in her kitchen.
“Um,” she said in a barely audible voice, “not sure.”
Jenkins, who has been in a relationship with Hernandez since their days as high school students in Bristol, Conn., was forced to testify. She already faced a perjury charge that alleges she lied 29 times before a grand jury investigating Lloyd’s death. Prosecutors forced her hand by obtaining a court order granting her immunity.
It is possible that prosecutors agreed to drop the perjury charge in exchange for her truthful testimony, but that wasn’t disclosed Friday during nearly four hours of testimony.
Prosecutors have asserted that Hernandez grew angry with Lloyd after an incident at a Boston nightclub early the morning of June 15, 2013. They have alleged that he summoned two associates from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his house in North Attleboro, Mass., late the next evening, and at the same time sent a series of text messages arranging to meet Lloyd later that night.
According to the prosecutors’ theory of the crime, Hernandez drove his two alleged accomplices, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace Jr., from his home to Boston to pick up Lloyd, then returned to North Attleboro and pulled into a secluded field in an industrial park.
There, Lloyd was gunned down, shot multiple times.
Prosecutors also have alleged that Jenkins, acting at Hernandez’s direction, spirited the murder weapon out of their home the day after the killing.
Friday began with the dismissal of a juror, the third sent home so far, for unspecified reasons. That left 15. Twelve are needed to deliberate; alternates will be randomly selected by the judge after closing arguments.
Then came a spirited battle over Jenkins’ testimony, waged by Hernandez’s lawyers, who sought to limit things the prosecutors could ask. So Judge E. Susan Garsh brought Jenkins in for what was, in effect, a dry run of testimony.
And during that process, Jenkins changed her long-standing answers to several key questions surrounding Lloyd’s murder.
For instance, prosecutors have asserted that Jenkins spirited the murder weapon out of the home she shared with Hernandez by placing a large, heavy box inside a black trash bag and carrying out of her home, putting it in her sister’s car and driving away.
When she was questioned before the grand jury on Aug. 13 and Aug. 15, 2013, she was asked if getting rid of the item was “important to her.” At that time, she said no.
Friday morning, her answer was different.
McCauley asked her if it was, in fact, important to her to get rid of that item.
“Yes,” she answered.
He then asked her if she attempted to conceal what she was doing from others in the home.
Jenkins also acknowledged on several other points that her answers now would be different than what she said before the grand jury. For instance, she had testified before the grand jury that it was not unusual for her to borrow her sister’s car, as she had after taking the trash bag out of the house. But Friday, she said that it would be “uncommon” for her to borrow her sister’s car.
The dynamic between Jenkins and her sister, Shaneah, has been on display throughout the case. One sister is engaged to Hernandez and is the mother of his young daughter; the other was the girlfriend of Lloyd.
Shayanna Jenkins sat with Hernandez’s family while she was in court. Shaneah Jenkins sat on the other side of the aisle, with Lloyd’s family.
Shayanna Jenkins’ testimony was one of the most anticipated moments of the trial, now in its ninth week.
As testimony wound up Friday, Jenkins acknowledged that she did not go home after dropping Hernandez off at a police station late the night of June 17, 2013, as she had suggested before the grand jury. Instead, she acknowledged that at Hernandez’s direction she drove across Rhode Island and withdrew $500 from an ATM, then gave the money to Wallace.
For the trial, prosecutors obtained an immunity order, meaning that Jenkins lost her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. That means she faces the possibility of being jailed if she refuses to answer questions.
Hernandez faces one count of murder and two firearms charges in the slaying of Lloyd.
Prosecutors have not said who they believe fired the shots that killed Lloyd, and Ortiz and Wallace also have been charged with murder and will be tried separately. Under a Massachusetts law often referred to as "joint venture," a person can be convicted of murder even if someone else carried out the actual killing. To prove that, prosecutors would have to convince the jury that Hernandez knowingly participated in the killing and did so with intent.
Hernandez has separately been indicted on multiple murder and assault charges in the July 16, 2012, shooting that killed Daniel De Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, in Boston. Another man was wounded.
Garsh has ruled that jurors will not hear any testimony about that case.
In the Boston killings, prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez became enraged after a man bumped him on a nightclub dance floor, spilling his drink and failing to apologize. They allege that Hernandez later followed the man and his friends as they drove away from the club, then pulled up next to their car at a stoplight and opened fire with a .38-caliber revolver.
That trial originally was scheduled to begin May 28, but the judge there indicated recently he would push it back given the anticipated length of the trial in the Lloyd case. No new trial date has been set.