The murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez opened Thursday with a prosecutor for the first time describing what he said was DNA evidence putting Hernandez at the scene of Odin Lloyd’s death.
Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomber gave jurors a 45-minute account of how Hernandez went to great lengths to hide his involvement in the June 2013 death of Lloyd, who used to supply him with marijuana.
Removing guns from his house and returning the rental car that he drove the night of the slaying, he said, could not hide Hernandez’s DNA, which investigators identified on a marijuana joint by the victim’s body and on a shell casing left in the rental car used the night of the crime. Hernandez’s new Nike Air Jordan sneakers left a footprint in the industrial park where the victim’s body was found, Bomberg told the jury.
Citing cellular location data, text messages, surveillance footage, and interviews with witnesses, Bomberg described how Hernandez woke up one Saturday after a night out with Lloyd, worried about information that he had disclosed.
He told jurors that Hernandez ordered two friends from Bristol, Conn., to drive north to meet him, and that after they arrived at his North Attleborough house the next night, they drove to Boston to pick up Lloyd. After picking up the victim about 2:30 a.m., Bomberg said, they drove straight back to North Attleborough, to the industrial park where Lloyd was shot six times.“He drove for two hours — the only purpose for which was to get the victim into a secluded area,” Bomberg said. He played the jury surveillance footage that he said showed Hernandez holding the murder weapon minutes after Lloyd’s death.
In the following days, Bomberg said, Hernandez “covered up the killing” and he “secured the flight of his joint venturers” by arranging for weapons to be removed from his house and by swapping the Nissan Altima that he drove the night of the crime for a different car in which his friends fled back to Connecticut.
The opening statement given by Hernandez’s defense attorney, Michael Fee, indicated that the defense strategy involves shifting blame away from Hernandez and onto the two other men who face murder charges in the case, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz. Hernandez’s arrest drew national attention due to his high-profile career as a professional football player. Fee said that from the onset of the investigation, police and prosecutors targeted Hernandez because of his fame.“
The celebrity football player. The New England Patriot,” Fee said. “Aaron never had a chance.”Fee dismissed prosecutors’ claims that Hernandez’s frantic texts to Ortiz and Wallace telling them to come to Massachusetts were part of a murder plot, saying instead that the athlete was enjoying the offseason and “itching to get out with the guys.”
He denied that the cars that Hernandez rented were part of a murder plot, saying instead that “renting cars was part of Aaron’s everyday existence,” and that he often rented vehicles for his friends.“Aaron is a generous friend,” Fee said. When he started playing in the NFL, Fee told jurors, everyone from his hometown of Bristol wanted to be friends with the New England Patriot.“Bristol has some tough parts, some tough people,” Fee said, hinting at an alternate explanation for Lloyd’s slaying. “
It’s the kind of place where the people don’t always trust the police and they don’t tell on each other.”And as for why Hernandez drove to Boston to pick up Lloyd and then drove straight back toward North Attleborough? Hernandez had a “man cave” at his house, Fee said, complete with a bar, a pool table, a home theater and “a place to smoke blunts.”“
Why would he kill his friend Odin … his supplier of marijuana blunts?” Fee asked, adding that Lloyd was known as the “blunt master.”Fee told jurors about Hernandez’s lifestyle, which he said involved partying, going to nightclubs, smoking marijuana and hooking up with girls. “You may not approve of that lifestyle,” he said. “But it is not unusual for an unmarried 23-year-old star professional athlete.”