Prosecution setting stage for future testimony in Hernandez trial
FALL RIVER, Mass. – Detectives searching Aaron Hernandez’s home five days after the murder of Odin Lloyd seized four pairs of Size 13 Nike athletic shoes – but in a master bedroom closet they found boxes for five pairs of sneakers.
That revelation, which unfolded shortly before the lunch break Thursday in the former NFL star’s ongoing murder trail, was subtle.
But prosecutor William McCauley, in questioning Massachusetts state trooper Zachary Johnson, pointed out the discrepancy, leaving jurors to wonder whether a pair of shoes is missing. The jurors, after all, have already been told that detectives found a footprint not far from Lloyd’s body that prosecutors allege was left by a Nike Air Jordan shoe.
This sets the stage for testimony expected later – that a footprint left by a Nike Air Jordan tennis shoe was in the dirt not far from the spot where Lloyd’s body was discovered.
And this was the theme of testimony in the 11th day of Hernandez’s murder trial: prosecutors seeking to lay the foundation for evidence they will introduce later.
For example, a state trooper testified that the time on Hernandez’s home surveillance system was 2 minutes, 45 seconds behind actual time, according to the analysis of a state trooper.
That time is expected to come into play later in Hernandez’s murder trial, when prosecutors show jurors images captured by that surveillance system – images that, among other things, allegedly show the former NFL star holding a pistol at his home just minutes after Odin Lloyd was murdered less than a mile away.
Trooper John Conron of the Massachusetts State Police, who has about 10 years of experience in forensic examination of computers, testified Thursday, describing in extensive detail his training and experience in recovering digital evidence.
He described going to Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass., the day after Lloyd’s slaying, making his way to the basement and dismantling the digital video recorder that was the heart of a home surveillance system that included cameras both inside and outside the house. Conron then took the DVR back to a state police lab, where he was able to make a “bit-by-bit copy” of the hard drive, which included images of Hernandez both before and after Lloyd’s killing.
Hernandez, the former star tight end of the New England Patriots, faces one count of murder and two firearms charges in the slaying of Lloyd, who was gunned down in a secluded field used to store dirt, asphalt and gravel. Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player, was dating Shaneah Jenkins, sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
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 Wallace Jr., to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, picked up Lloyd and returned to North Attleboro.
According to court documents, Hernandez allegedly drove into the field at 3:23 a.m. on June 17, 2013. There, Lloyd was shot multiple times moments later, according to prosecutors.
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.
At 3:30 a.m., according to court documents, Hernandez pulled back into his driveway with Wallace and Ortiz.
Three minutes later, that home surveillance system captured an image of him at the entrance to the basement holding what prosecutors allege is a handgun.
Those video images are expected to be played for the jury at some point in the trial – perhaps as early as Friday.
Trooper Conron, under cross-examination by defense attorney Charles Rankin, acknowledged that he looked at small chunks of the video from Hernandez’s home while in a van outside the house. He said that was done to make sure there were images on the DVR – that, in effect, it was not blank.
Rankin also suggested there were problems with the video.
“Did you see any images that seemed to freeze?” he asked.
“No,” Conron said.
“Did you see any times when the video seemed to be playing along and then it would stop for a few seconds?” Rankin asked.
“No, sir,” Conron said.
Hernandez was arrested June 26, 2013, and has been held without bail since. The Patriots cut him hours after his arrest.
Trooper Johnson also testified about a white sweatshirt that was seized during a search of Hernandez’s home the same day the shoes were taken.
That shirt had no logos on it, and Johnson testified that surveillance camera images show Hernandez wearing a similar pullover that included a horseshoe design on one side.
The testimony about the shoes and the shoe boxes led McCauley to show numerous photographs on the monitors in the courtroom, noting, for instance, that each pair of the seized shoes was Size 13. And when he showed Johnson a photo from Hernandez’s master bedroom closet that showed the five shoe boxes, the detective identified them as being for “sneakers.”
Neither McCauley nor Johnson ever said all five boxes were for Nikes – in fact, although they were all black, the label on one wasn’t visible, and the label on another included handwriting.
But the implication was clear: The .45-cailber pistol that killed Lloyd isn’t the only piece of evidence that prosecutors allege was ditched before investigators searched Hernandez’s home.
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 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.