Prosecutors trying to establish evidence of Hernandez footprint at murder site
FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Prosecutors promised jurors they would introduce evidence that Aaron Hernandez left a footprint in the secluded field where Odin Lloyd's body was found, and Friday they devoted considerable time to laying a foundation to later do just that.
And defense attorneys worked diligently to punch holes in that assertion.
The first two witnesses called to the stand say they were working in a business a few hundred yards from the murder scene, were approached by a teenager who came upon Lloyd's body while out jogging, and walked out into the field and observed the corpse.
"He seemed excited and agitated, nervous," David Swithers, president of a nearby business, testified about his first impression of William Kent, a then-freshman in high school who was running through the area when he came upon Lloyd's body, then went for help.
His testimony followed that of one of his employees.
But in each case, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley carefully spent time asking each of them what shoes they were wearing, about taking those shoes to the police station. He displayed photographs of each shoe in the courtroom and had each identify the brand, and whether it was right or left.
Prosecutors are expected to at some point show jurors a footprint left near Lloyd's body that was "consistent" with the Nike Air Jordan shoes they allege Hernandez was wearing at the time of the murder.
But on cross-examination, defense attorney Charles Rankin asked Smithers if he saw police officers walking through the scene -- and about a statement he made to detectives when he was interviewed.
"Did you tell him that lots of people walk and jog through there?" Rankin asked.
"I may have heard that," Smithers said.
He challenged Smithers how he knew that.
"Again, I've heard that a lot of people walk and jog through there," Smithers said.
The distinction could be critical down the line -- the more footprints in the area prosecutors can account for, the stronger their argument that a footprint matching Hernandez's shoe is important; the more people defense attorneys can show walked in the area, the stronger their argument that impression could have been left by someone else.
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. Lloyd, 27, was dating Shaneah Jenkins, the sister of Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.
Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez summoned two associates from his hometown of Bristol, Connecticut, 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 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.
Prosecutors did bring Lloyd's girlfriend to the stand, and McCauley questioned her about the relationship between him and Hernandez.
She described it as "cordial" but said they weren't close, said she was not aware of Lloyd ever talking on the phone with Hernandez, and said that she did not believe the two ever visited without her there.
That a day after defense attorney Michael Fee, in his opening statement, repeatedly asserted that Lloyd was Hernandez's "good friend" and that the former Pro Bowl player would have no reason to kill him.
And McCauley also dealt with an elephant in the room, eliciting testimony from Jenkins that Lloyd supplied Hernandez with pot -- and smoked it with him.
"Would someone invite him to that area of the house?" McCauley said.
"I don't know if there was a formal invitation, but yes," Jenkins said.
"Who would he go to that area of the house with?" McCauley asked.
"Aaron," Jenkins said.
"And where was that area of the house?" McCauley asked.
"In the basement," Jenkins responded.
"When they would go to the basement, do you know what they would do?" McCauley asked.
"Hang out and smoke," Jenkins said.
"When you say hang out and smoke, how did you know that?" McCauley asked.
"You could smell it," Jenkins answered.
Testimony for the day ended with her on the stand -- and without the defense yet having a chance to cross examine her.
Before Judge E. Susan Garsh released the jury for the weekend, she gave them permission to watch Sunday's Super Bowl, featuring the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, but admonished them to avoid any discussion about the Hernandez trial.
Testimony is scheduled to resume Monday.
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.