The prosecution rested Thursday in the murder trial of former New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez after spending more than two months presenting a case that he killed the boyfriend of his fiancee’s sister.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd, who was found shot in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home. At the time, Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots.
Prosecutors called 131 witnesses since testimony began Jan. 29, including team owner Robert Kraft, who testified this week that two days after the killing, Hernandez looked him in the eye and told him he was innocent. They also submitted hundreds of pieces of evidence, including surveillance videos from inside Hernandez’s home that showed him holding a black object that appeared to be a gun less than 10 minutes after Lloyd’s killing. A joint found near Lloyd’s body had DNA from both men on it.
Hernandez’s legal team has gone after that evidence, calling into question the testimony of an employee of weapons manufacturer Glock who had identified the black object as a gun and arguing instead that it was a piece of electronics such as an iPad or a TV remote. They also have gone after the police investigation, painting it as bumbling and inept and saying Hernandez was targeted as a suspect because he is a celebrity.
The prosecution’s case ended Thursday with its final witness, Dr. William Zane of the state medical examiner’s office. His testimony was graphic at times as he detailed the gunshot wounds that killed Lloyd, using a mannequin to demonstrate where he was shot and at what angle the bullets entered his body. Lloyd was shot six times, and Zane said three of the shots were fatal.
Lloyd died as a result of injuries to his heart, lungs, liver and a kidney, Zane said, and he would have been dead within minutes.
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, left the court before he testified. But other family members stayed, dropping their heads, rocking and some shedding tears as a prosecutor showed photos of Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body at the medical examiner’s office.
The jurors appeared to pay close attention, with one frowning and furrowing her brow as Lloyd’s body was displayed on a monitor.
After Zane’s testimony, prosecutor William McCauley announced that the prosecution had rested.
Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh then sent the jurors home, telling them before they left that she expected they would receive the case next week. She reminded them to be "extra vigilant" not to discuss the case over the holiday weekend, when they may be seeing more family members than usual.
"Resist the temptation to respond to anything at all about the case or about your jury service," Garsh told them.
Garsh is expected to hear arguments Friday on several pending issues. Hernandez lawyer James Sultan told Garsh this week that the defense expects to call witnesses Monday and be completed with its questioning that day.
Once the defense rests, each side will deliver a closing argument. Then the jury will be given instructions, and three alternates will be randomly selected from among the 15 jurors immediately before deliberating. A final jury of 12 members will decide Hernandez’s fate.
Eighteen jurors began the trial in January, but three were dismissed, including one who is accused of misrepresenting her answers during screening in a bid to get onto the jury.