The Verdict is in: Aaron Hernandez Found Guilty

A 10 week trial, 135 witnesses, over 400 exhibits entered into evidence and 7 days of jury deliberation came to a dramatic conclusion on April 15, 2015, when former NFL star Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of the first-degree murder “by reason of atrocity or cruelty” of Odin Llyod. Hernandez was also convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Pursuant to Massachusetts law, the sentence for this conviction is life in prison without the possibility of parole, and this is the sentence the Judge formally imposed shortly after the verdict was entered.

The scene in the Boston courtroom represents a stunning reversal of fortune for the 25-year-old former star of the New England Patriots. Hernandez was drafted by the Patriots after his junior year in college, playing in their 2011 season and in the Super Bowl XLVI game against the New York Giants (they lost). He had signed a 5 year, 40 million dollar contract extension with the Patriots in August 2012, not quite a year before the June 17, 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez has a finance and a young child. A new family, talent, and plenty of money–success in every sense of the word. With everything to lose, a central question in the case and a huge hurdle for the prosecution was why: why would Hernandez kill Lloyd?

THE POWER OF A CIRCUMSTANTIAL CASE

At the beginning of the trial, the prosecution faced significant challenges. First, as noted above, there seemed to be no motive for the crime. No compelling reason had come to light explaining Hernandez’s murder of Llyod. There was no evidence of financial gain, jealousy, drugs, a business venture gone bad, a feud, etc. The theory that Hernandez may have killed Lloyd because he knew too much about Hernandez’s involvement in two other murders–murders which occurred in July of 2012 for which Hernandez will be tried later this year in Boston–was speculation and therefore not admissible in the trial. Furthermore, the fact that Hernandez was charged with two other murders was deemed to be too prejudicial and not admissible in his trial for Lloyd’s murder.

In addition to no evidence of motive, the murder weapon was never found. Lloyd was killed execution-style, by several shots from a Glock handgun. Surveillance footage from Hernandez’s home security system shows him holding what appears to be a Glock handgun shortly after the time of the murder, but the weapon was never found.

Finally, there were no eyewitnesses to the crime that testified. Two other men were involved in the killing of Lloyd, and may have seen what transpired, but they did not testify. They will be tried later this year.

Despite the lack of direct evidence, the prosecution used the surveillance footage, cellphone records of calls and texts before and after Lloyd’s murder, DNA evidence and other evidence at the crime scene to place Hernandez there, and witness testimony regarding the suspicious behavior of Hernandez around the time of the murder to make a compelling case for Hernandez’s guilt.

EVIDENCE OF OTHER CRIMES

One of the more interesting things about the Hernandez trial is the way in which the inadmissibility of evidence of other alleged crimes affected the ability of prosecutors to establish a possible motive. As mentioned above, Hernandez is charged with two additional murders occurring in a July 2012 drive-by shooting outside a Boston bar. In addition, he shot a former friend in the face in February of 2013–just four months prior to Lloyd’s murder. If evidence of these episodes had been admissible, prosecutors may have been able to portray Hernandez as a violent person spiraling out of control, thereby providing at least a partial explanation for Hernandez’s actions. But evidence of other crimes is deemed too inflammatory or prejudicial to be admissible in a trial for another crime; the possibility that a jury will convict someone on the basis that the defendant has committed similar crimes or acts is too great.

But even without motive, the murder weapon, eyewitnesses, and evidence of Hernandez’s other crimes, the jury found Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder by reason of atrocity or cruelty. This verdict illustrates how powerful a circumstantial case can be.

CONTACT YOUR ATTORNEY

If you have been charged with a crime, do not take chances. Call the expert criminal defense attorneys at Pak and McRae Law, LLC.

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Pak & McRae Law

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we provide straightforward, sincere criminal defense for local, state, and federal matters. Our team includes a former Assistant District Attorney, so we understand how prosecutors approach cases and will use those insights to benefit your case.

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