Will Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft testify in Hernandez trial before Super Bowl?
The New England Patriots are headed to the Super Bowl – but owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick and four other members of the team’s staff could be headed to a courtroom to testify in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial.
Could the two coincide in such a way that Belichick and other members of his staff could face the prospect of putting aside Super Bowl preparations in Arizona and traveling to Massachusetts to answer questions about the team’s former star tight end?
It’s technically possible but probably not likely.
Kraft and Belichick are among six Patriots officials on the prosecution’s witness list for the upcoming trial of Hernandez, who faces a murder charge and two weapons charges in the June 17, 2013, slaying of semipro football player Odin Lloyd. The others on the witness list are assistant special teams coach Joseph Judge, who lives near Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass.; director of player development Kevin Anderson; strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash Jr.; and assistant strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera.
Hernandez, a former Pro Bowl tight end for the Patriots, has been behind bars since his arrest nine days after Lloyd’s murder. The Patriots cut Hernandez hours after his arrest.
Lloyd, 27, was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, 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.
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.
Jury selection continues Tuesday with another round of individual interviews conducted by Judge E. Susan Garsh. It’s expected to be at least Wednesday before the list of prospective jurors is whittled to the 18 men and women who will hear the case – among them will be six alternates.
Prosecutors have declined repeatedly to answer questions about their trial strategy, and it’s not clear from earlier court filings what testimony they will expect from the Patriots officials – or how early in their case they would call them. It’s also possible they won’t call them – putting them on the witness list reserves the right to bring them in to testify but does not guarantee that it will happen.
But they would have the power to call them to the witness stand when they believe it is most strategic for their case – even if that occurred before the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks face off Feb. 1 in Super Bowl XLIX.
Assuming that a jury is seated Wednesday, the trial would begin in earnest on Thursday. A good chunk of that day is going to be spent on a field trip for jurors – they will visit the murder scene, Hernandez’s home, the house in the Dorchester section of Boston where Lloyd was picked up shortly before his death and several cell phone towers. Prosecutors hope to use the cell towers to illustrate Hernandez’s location in the hours leading up to Lloyd’s death.
However, most murder trials begin with the prosecution eliciting testimony to help the jury get to know the victim, then turn toward testimony about the crime itself.
It’s not clear when in their presentation prosecutors might call Kraft, Belichick and the other coaches.
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 later Hernandez 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.