The fate of former New England Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez is in the hands of a Massachusetts jury. Hernandez is charged with killing two men and injuring a third in a shooting outside a nightclub in Boston in July 2012. Prosecutors allege Hernandez became enraged after one of the victims allegedly spilled a drink on him and never apologized.
The prosecution’s key witness, Alexander Bradley, testified under a grant of immunity that he was driving Hernandez’s SUV on the night of the shootings and that Hernandez reach over and fired five shots, killing Daniel de Abreu and Safir Furtado. A third victim was struck with a bullet, but survived. Months later, prosecutors allege Hernandez then shot Bradley in a failed effort to silence him.
The defense, led by Jose Baez, blamed the Boston Police for shoddy police work because they failed to solve the crime for so many years. He also argued that no physical evidence tied Hernandez to the scene and at least two independent witnesses claimed during police interviews that there may have been a woman in the shooter’s vehicle.
Baez also lashed out hard at Bradley, calling him a turncoat simply looking for the best deal to perhaps get an easier sentence on a 2014 conviction for shooting up a nightclub. Baez also claimed that Bradley was the shooter on the evening of July 2012 and it was all over a drug deal gone bad.
After nearly one and half hours of instructions from the judge, the jurors now hold Hernandez’s fate in their hands.
He has denied any involvement in the 2012 killings. However, he is currently serving a life sentence without parole for the killing of Odin Lloyd. That case is on appeal.
After receiving the case and resuming deliberations Friday, the jury asked a question that may not be good news for Hernandez.
The question read (emphasis in original):
“If an immunized witness provides specific testimony that we believe would give enough evidence for a conviction, do we have to have corroborating evidence to that specific piece of testimony.”
Clearly, the jurors are seeking clarification on what is needed for conviction beyond the testimony of Alexander Bradley. He was the prosecution’s star witness and a former friend of the football star, but he also received immunity for his testimony. Bradley claimed he was driving the silver SUV on the night of the shooting and that Hernandez pulled the trigger five times, killing two and injuring a third inside the victims’ BMW. Prosecutors also alleged Hernandez shot Bradley months later in Florida in an attempt to silence him about the shootings in July 2012.
As LawNewz previously explained, the judge told them under Massachusetts state law the answer is, “No.” He continued, “What you need is corroboration to at least one element of the charged crime or crimes.”
In other words, if an immunized witness’s testimony covers all five elements of a charged crime, only one of the five elements of the crime must also be corroborated by a non-immunized witness and the jury can convict the defendant.
The jury will begin deliberations Monday morning. Stick with LawNewz to see the verdict live and analysis with our panel of experts.
[image via screengrab]