Judge expects Aaron Hernandez trial to begin Tuesday

Aaron Hernandez is only a few days away from the start of his first of two murder trials.

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FALL RIVER, Mass. – Opening statements are expected Tuesday in the murder and weapons trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.

Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh, who is presiding over the case, told prosecutors and defense attorneys that she expects the process of selecting a jury of 18 to be concluded Monday and that the highly anticipated trial would begin the next morning.

Hernandez faces one count of first-degree murder and two weapons charges in the June 17, 2013, killing of Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.

Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez summoned two associates from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his Massachusetts home late the night of June 16, 2013, and simultaneously made plans to meet with Lloyd. Hernandez then allegedly drove the other two men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace Jr., to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, picked up Lloyd and returned to North Attleboro.

According to court documents, Hernandez allegedly drove into a secluded area in an industrial park that is surrounded by woods and mounds of asphalt, gravel and dirt. There, Lloyd was shot multiple times with a .45-caliber handgun.

Although prosecutors have not said who they believe fired the fatal shots, they have asserted that Hernandez "orchestrated" the killing. Ortiz and Wallace have also been indicted on murder charges but will be tried separately. The prosecution does not plan to call either as a witness in the trial.

Thursday was the ninth day of jury selection, and the fourth day Garsh interviewed prospective jurors individually in a process known as “voir dire.” At the end of each interview, Garsh either dismisses a prospective juror for “good cause” – a conflict that could be as simple as knowing someone involved in the case or holding religious beliefs that would make it difficult to consider the charges – or rules that he or she is “indifferent.”

The final jury of 18 – which will include six alternates – will come from that group of jurors who have been found to be indifferent.

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At the end of the day Thursday, that number stood at 46.

Whatever number of indifferent jurors who are identified by the end of the day Friday will report to court on Monday. At that point, prosecutors and defense attorneys will each have the right to dismiss as many as 18 of them without giving a reason.

At the end of that process, the 18 men and women who will hear the case will be seated.

Hernandez has separately been indicted on multiple murder and assault charges in a July 16, 2012, shooting in South Boston that left two men dead and another wounded.

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 failed to apologize. They alleged 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, killing Daniel De Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, and wounding another man.

That trial was originally scheduled to begin May 28, but the judge there indicated recently he would push it back given the anticipated length of the current trial. However, no new date has been set.