Juror in Aaron Hernandez murder trial dismissed by judge
A day that saw another long delay in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial also saw some of its most dramatic testimony – including Odin Lloyd’s girlfriend describing being awakened and told he was dead.
The first issue, however, revolved around one of the 18 jurors – a middle-aged woman who was dismissed Tuesday following private discussions in the courtroom and a hearing that was closed to the public and news media.
Afterward, Judge E. Susan Garsh said the juror had claimed in questioning that she didn’t recall specifics of the case but that “there is credible evidence that the juror did talk about the case over the last few years, that the juror expressed an opinion, a specific opinion about the case to the effect that in the absence of a weapon it would be hard to convict, that the juror discussed specifically several different items of evidence that the court has ruled inadmissible in this case, that there has been discussions following the initial filling out of the questionnaire here, that over the last few years the juror has expressed significant interest in serving on this particular jury.”
The juror also lied on a questionnaire about how many New England Patriots games she had attended, according to the judge. At the time of his arrest, Hernandez was a star tight end for the Patriots.
Dealing with that issue gobbled up much of the day in a trial that has already lost three days to winter storms.
Finally, shortly before 3 p.m., Lloyd’s girlfriend, Shaneah Jenkins, sat down at the witness stand to continue the testimony she began last Friday. Her sister, Shayanna Jenkins, is engaged to Hernandez and is the mother of 2-year-old daughter.
Hernandez, 25, faces one count of murder and two firearms charges in the June 17, 2013, killing of Lloyd, who was gunned down in a secluded field less than a mile from the player’s home. Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez grew angry with Lloyd after the two of them had gone out to a nightclub several days earlier.
Shaneah Jenkins described trying to reach Lloyd the day he was killed – calling in the morning, on her lunch break, and in the evening. Each time, she did not get an answer.
Then she described being awakened later that night by a state trooper’s phone call.
“Did you learn something at that time?” prosecutor William McCauley asked.
“Yes,” Jenkins replied, a hint of emotion in her voice.
“And what did you learn?” McCauley asked.
After a long pause, during which she wiped tears from her eyes, Jenkins said, “That Odin was dead.”
She also described traveling the next day to the home her sister and Hernandez shared in North Attleboro, Mass. After she had been there about an hour, she encountered Hernandez.
“He came into the dining room, asking me if I was OK, put his hand on my shoulder, rubbed my shoulder, and told me he’d been through this death thing before and it would get better with time,” she said, answering questions after a judge overruled efforts by defense attorneys to block her testimony.
Testimony ended for the day with her on the stand – and she is expected to be back there Wednesday when the trial resumes.
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 Ernes 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 that prosecutors allege was a Glock.
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.
The judge initially seated 18 jurors out of concern that the length of the trial – estimated at six to 10 weeks – would mean some would be dismissed along the way. In the end, 12 jurors will decide the case after alternates are excused. Those alternates will be chosen randomly after closing arguments.
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.