Aaron Hernandez trial analysis: Jenkins testimony helps prosecutors
Aaron Hernandez’s fiancée didn’t give prosecutors everything they wanted, but she gave them plenty — changing her long-standing answers to a number of key questions and making other disclosures that fit neatly with the narrative they’ve been trying to weave.
To be sure, Shayanna Jenkins was not a willing witness, and prosecutors had to obtain a court order giving her immunity to get her to the stand in Hernandez’s murder trial.
On numerous occasions — particularly when it came to conversations between her and Hernandez — Jenkins said simply, “I don’t know,” or, “I don’t remember.”
One notable exception: Her first conversation with the former New England Patriots tight end the morning after Odin Lloyd’s body was discovered.
“I believe I asked him at that time if he did it,” Jenkins testified, “and he said no.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Jenkins was deeply involved in an effort to cover up Lloyd’s June 17, 2013, murder — and that she lied repeatedly about that when she was questioned before a grand jury less than two months after the killing. They contend, for example, that she spirited the murder weapon out of the home she and Hernandez shared and ditched it. It has never been found. They have also asserted that she met with Hernandez’s alleged accomplices to provide them with cash.
Her answers before the grand jury on those and other topics led to a perjury charge against her — and the allegation that she lied 29 times.
On Monday, sitting before the jury that will decide whether to convict her fiancé of murder, Jenkins acknowledged that her answers were different “in some areas.”
Prosecutors also elicited other testimony from Jenkins — some of it more expansive than what she told the grand jury — that fit with their theory about Lloyd’s murder.
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 late the next evening, he summoned two associates from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his house in North Attleboro, Mass., and at the same time sent a series of text messages arranging to meet Lloyd later that night. They have further alleged that 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 have argued he was killed between the time he sent his final text message to his sister, 3:23 a.m., and the time a surveillance camera on a nearby business captured the vehicle leaving the area at 3:27 a.m.
Hernandez faces one count of murder and two firearms charges in the slaying of Lloyd. Ortiz and Wallace have also been charged with murder and will be tried separately. Neither is expected to testify at Hernandez’s trial.
Prosecutors have not said who they believe fired the shots that killed Lloyd.
Jenkins, who has known Hernandez since elementary school and has been in a relationship with him since their days as high school students in Bristol, Conn., bore a daughter with him in 2012.
Her testimony was long anticipated — and it played out against a backdrop of her estranged relationship with her sister, Shaneah Jenkins, who was dating Lloyd when he was killed. At one point Monday, Shayanna Jenkins described having to stay “neutral” in dealing with her fiancé and her sister. And Shaneah Jenkins, who sat next to Lloyd’s mother, at one point rose in tears and walked out of the courtroom.
Defense attorney Charles Rankin tried to use his cross-examination to humanize both Jenkins and Hernandez. He asked her about the death of Hernandez’s father, about their relationship, about his family.
Rankin also asked her to describe Hernandez’s relationship with Lloyd — one of the points the defense has repeatedly stressed is that the two of them were friends, and the NFL star would have no reason to kill a friend.
And, finally, Rankin asked Jenkins about a time she and Hernandez separated after she discovered he was having an affair. After that episode, she said she decided that if their relationship was going to survive, she would have to look the other way at some of his behavior.
“I made a decision that if I was going to move back in with Aaron that I would have to kind of compromise on his behavior, and that included infidelity and everything that came along with it,” Jenkins said. “And I decided it was worth fighting for, so I moved back.”
The unstated message: It wasn’t unusual for her not to ask questions if Hernandez went out at night without giving her an explanation.
Finally, Rankin got her to say the box she sneaked out of their home smelled like marijuana — although she acknowledged that Monday was the first time she’d ever said that.
Jurors ultimately will decide what to believe about her testimony.
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.
Judge E. Susan 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.