Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder – sentenced to life imprisonment
FALL RIVER, Massachusetts (CNN) — Latest developments:
•The lead prosecutor in the case against Aaron Hernandez, Bristol County Deputy District Attorney William McCauley, told reporters Wednesday that he thanks the jury for the verdict. “We felt like we had their attention every day,” he said, adding that the jury considered the evidence fairly. He also said that jurors returned a verdict that is supported by the evidence.
•Asked Wednesday what he thought when Odin Lloyd’s mother said that she would forgive those involved in her son’s death, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said, “I think it’s a tremendous compliment to her.”
“As difficult as it is for people in the end, forgiveness is what it’s about, if people” can bring themselves to that point, he said.
• The prosecutor said that “Aaron Hernandez may have been a well known New England patriots football player. However in the end, the jury found that he was just a man who committed a brutal murder.
“The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end,” Quinn said. “He is a citizen who was held accountable by the jury for his depraved conduct.”
The district attorney added that he felt “confident we had presented a strong case” — even without a murder weapon or eyewitness — that would lead to Hernandez’s conviction.
• Ursula Ward, Lloyd’s mother, fought back tears as she talked to reporters Wednesday, remembering her son as “the most precious gift in my life.”
“Just like God has left his footprint in the sand, my baby’s footprint is in my heart forever,” Ward said. “He was my strength. I love him dearly.”
• The jurors said they learned about other cases — including a pair of murder counts — that Aaron Hernandez faced on Wednesday, after finding him guilty in Odin Lloyd’s murder. Asked what that revelation made them feel, one juror said, “That we did the right thing.”
• Would they have been swayed if Aaron Hernandez testified? One juror responded, “Depends on what he had to say.”
• Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn — whose office prosecuted Aaron Hernandez — is expected to speak to reporters soon.
• The former New England Patriots player has been sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for his conviction of first-degree murder.
• Judge Susan Garsh also sentenced him to between half a year and three years for unlawful possession of a firearm and one year — which he has already served — for unlawful possession of ammunition.
• The May 28 start of another trial that Hernandez had faced — on two murder counts tied to an incident in 2012 — has been moved, said Suffolk County, Massachusetts, district attorney’s spokesman Jake Wark. Wark said he expects that trial will be rescheduled “in the coming days.”
• Fighting back tears while addressing the court, Odin Lloyd’s sister called Wednesday “a great day … but it’s also a painful day.”
“I have to go to his gravesite to look at his tombstone to tell him that I love him,” she said.
• Ed Lloyd remembered his nephew Odin as “a great person” who was hard-working and caring.
“I’m sorry for where I stand today,” Ed Lloyd said after the verdict was reached.
• Ward called her son “the backbone of the family” and expressed regret that she’d never see Lloyd have a child and that she’d never dance at his wedding.
“The day I laid my son Odin to rest, I felt my heart stop beating for a moment,” Ward said. “I felt like I wanted to go into the hole with my son, Odin.”
Ursula Ward added, “I forgive the hands of the people that had a hand in my son’s murder, either before or after. And I pray and hope that someday, everyone up there will forgive them also.”
• The jurors deliberated for more than 35 hours over parts of seven days.
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole Wednesday, a new low for a young man who once enjoyed a $40-million pro-football contract and now stands convicted in the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez, 25, appeared to nod “no” earlier Wednesday as jurors in his Massachusetts trial found him guilty of first-degree murder. He was also found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.
At trial, the defense team described Lloyd, a former semi-pro football player, as Hernandez’s “bluntmaster,” i.e. his purveyor of marijuana. But Lloyd’s relatives portrayed him in victim impact statements as a loving son and protective brother, as a man who rode his bike 10 miles to work and wore the same flip flops for 12 years.
“Odin was my only son,” his mother, Ursula Ward, told the court, without looking over at Hernandez. “Odin was the man of the house. Odin was his sisters’ keeper. After my daughter Olivia had her daughter, Odin became her keeper, too.”
“I thank God every second for every day I spent with my son. The day I laid my son Odin to rest, I think my heart stopped beating for a moment. I felt like I wanted to go in that hole with my son Odin.”
Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said Hernandez “committed an extremely cruel and atrocious killing. … It was brutal. It was senseless.”
Judge Susan Garsh sentenced Hernandez “to a term of your natural life without the possibility of parole” for the first-degree murder conviction.
As the verdict was read, the former standout tight end appeared upset but calm — pursing his lips and taking a deep breath, as his lawyer James Sultan put his arm around him.
He looked over to see his mother,Terri, and fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, weeping. Shayanna is sister of the victim’s former girlfriend, Shaneah Jenkins.
He mouthed to them, “It’s OK.”
None of the jurors looked the Hernandez as their verdict was read.
Hernandez was on trial for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in a Massachusetts industrial park in June 2013.
As each guilty verdict was read, Lloyd’s mother, Ursula, rocked back and forth.
After the verdict, Lloyd’s relatives thanked and embraced members of the prosecution team.
The sensational trial started in late January, just days before the Patriots Super Bowl victory over the Seattle Seahawks amid an unusually long and harsh New England winter.
As to Hernandez, he sat listening to the verdict with his attorneys surrounding him.
Prosecutors took months to present more than 130 witnesses to build their case. The defense wrapped its witnesses in less than a day.
Prosecutors say Lloyd was seen June 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m. with Hernandez and Hernandez’s friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, in a rented silver Nissan Altima. Later that day, a jogger found his body riddled with gunshots.
The prosecution portrayed Hernandez as cold, calculating and insecure — a man who believed others should be grateful for his attention, one capable of murder for merely disrespecting him in the presence of others.
Prosecutor William McCauley asked jurors: What was Hernandez talking about a day after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found at a Massachusetts industrial park? “‘My endorsements are gone,'” Hernandez said, according to McCauley. “He’s not talking about Odin.”
Wallace and Ortiz were longtime friends of Hernandez, who had complete control of them, the prosecution said. In closing arguments, McCauley reminded the jury of testimony about Hernandez and his two friends sunbathing poolside hours after the slaying, drinking smoothies, and Hernandez at times leaving his then 8-month-old child with the two men.
“These guys … will do whatever he wants,” the prosecutor said of Hernandez.
The motive for the killing has never been clearly spelled out, but prosecutors said Lloyd might have done or said something that didn’t sit well with Hernandez. They said Hernandez rounded up some friends and orchestrated the killing to settle the score. McCauley said a perceived slight that might seem insignificant to someone — such as disrespect — would easily offend Hernandez.
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, testified that Hernandez told her to dispose of a box from the couple’s home that she said reeked of marijuana. She also said she didn’t know what was in the box.
The prosecution has said the murder weapon, which has not been recovered, was in the box.
After concealing the box with her daughter’s clothing, Jenkins said she threw it away in “a random dumpster” but could not remember where. Another piece of the state’s case was grainy footage from Hernandez’s home security system that prosecutors said showed him holding a .45-caliber handgun — the same kind of gun police said was used to kill Lloyd.
Wallace and Ortiz, who were also charged with murder, have pleaded not guilty, and will be tried separately.
Hernandez’s attorney, James Sultan, told jurors that Hernandez “witnessed” Lloyd’s killing, “committed by somebody he knew,” and that the former NFL player “really didn’t know what to do, so he put one foot in front of another” and moved on with his life.
Two other men who were drug dealers allegedly killed Lloyd, Sultan told the jury.
Lloyd, who was working for a landscaping firm at the time of his killing, played football for the Boston Bandits, the oldest semi-pro team in Boston and the winner of four championships in the New England Football League, the team’s website says.
Evidence collected in Lloyd’s death led to two more murder charges against Hernandez in a separate case in Boston. He has pleaded not guilty. That trail is scheduled to begin in May, but officials say it will be pushed back.