Aaron Hernandez “committed the crime of murder,” assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg asserted in opening arguments at the former New England Patriots star's murder trial -- and video surveillance, cell phone records and photographs “show the path” of the crime, he said.
Hernandez's defense attorney, Michael Fee, insisted his client lacked intent to murder and said the prosecutors are only trying to “dazzle and distract.”
The murder of Odin Lloyd, 27, a semi-pro football player, began with a text message, prosecutors said, as they laid out an alleged timeline of the killing.
Hernandez, now 25, “texted Odin Lloyd,” with whom other messages suggested he was upset, Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg told jurors. “He told Odin Lloyd he was going to come out to his house that night.”
Hernandez was driving when he and two other men -- Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace -- picked up Lloyd from his home at 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 2013, and brought him to an industrial park not far from Gillette Stadium, where Hernandez was a standout Patriots tight end with a $40 million contract, Bomberg said.
“Odin Lloyd was shot six times,” Bomberg told the jury.
Hernandez, Ortiz and Wallace “left evidence at the scene, they took evidence with them," Bomberg said. "In some cases, they were successful at destroying evidence.”
The murder weapon was never recovered.
Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty to Lloyd's murder, sat at the defense table in a dark suit, white shirt and light colored tie. Ortiz and Wallace also have pleaded not guilty in the case and will be tried separately.
Fee, in the defense's opening statement, declared Hernandez "an innocent man" and said the prosecution's account of events was "just a story and it’s not true.”
“Aaron Hernandez did not murder his friend Odin Lloyd,” Fee told the jury, claiming investigators prematurely zeroed in on Hernandez to the exclusion of other suspects.
“You come with an open mind.” Fee said. “Give us a chance to show you the truth.”
Prosecutors insisted they would present evidence to prove Hernandez's guilt.
Ten minutes after Lloyd was shot, they said, video surveillance showed Hernandez, Ortiz and Wallace return to Hernandez’s house, where Hernandez was seen at the entrance to his basement holding a gun.
“That, ladies and gentlemen, is a Glock,” Bomberg said.
Lloyd's relatives sat in court as the prosecutor explained where he was shot and the shell casings that were found. A tear was seen rolling down the cheek of Lloyd's mother, and other relatives sobbed or comforted one another. At one point, Lloyd's mother left the courtroom when a photo of her son's body was displayed for the jury.
The opening statements came three days prior to a Super Bowl appearance by Hernandez's former team, the New England Patriots. The team's head coach, Bill Belichick, and owner, Robert Kraft, are potential witnesses.
In addition, potential jurors in the case were asked, “Are you a fan of the New England Patriots?” “Have you ever attended a New England Patriots game?” “In this case you will hear evidence that the defendant was a professional football player for the New England Patriots. Is there anything about that fact that would impair your ability to be fair and impartial?” “Does the fact that Mr. Hernandez was a professional football player make you feel that he is more likely to be guilty of the charges in this case than an individual who did not play football professionally would be?”
During opening arguments, the defense was the first to tie Hernandez to the team now preparing for the Super Bowl.
In June 2013, “Aaron Hernandez was in his offseason with the New England Patriots and enjoying his lifestyle,” Fee said.
It was a lifestyle, Fee added, that was not unusual for an unmarried 23-year-old professional athlete. Hernandez liked to drink, Fee said, liked to smoke marijuana and liked to go to nightclub with his friends, one of whom was Odin Lloyd.