In the history of prosecutions in the United States, Mr. Hernandez’s murder trial elucidated mixed reactions from the public. The former football star for the New England Patriots was accused of killing his long-time friend Odin Lloyd whose body was found near his home with gunshots in June 2013 (Richer, 2019). In addition, he was found guilty of five charges for firearms that included, carrying a gun without a license, two counts of having large capacity firearms, and possession of ammunition without an identification card. According to Massachusetts’ statute, first-degree murder is deliberate killing with cruelty or atrocity committed with premeditated malice (COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT, 2018). As a result, in April 2015 he was sentenced to life imprisonment by the jury. Moreover, in criminal proceedings, the burden of showing the defendant is guilty rests with the prosecutor who must prove to the bench or jury through physical evidence. There was proof in Hernandez’s case through the use of images and video surveillance. This was a major trial in US history since it was based on circumstantial evidence where the suspect’s presence at the scene could not warrant a conviction.
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During the trial, the prosecution was led by Patrick Bomberg, assistant district attorney. In his opening remarks, he argued that Hernandez organized with two other men; lured Lloyd to an industrial park, and shot him to death. He used security videos, phone records, and text messages to show how the accused orchestrated the whole plan during that evening leading to the demise of the victim (Croaker, 2015). However, the defense attorney countered the aforementioned claims in his opening remarks by reminding the jury that both his client and the victim were good friends who spent time together. Attorney Michael Fee was quite persuasive because he appealed to the jury and the court by wondering how someone would kill a friend (Croaker, 2015). Further, he showed the jury how Lloyd and Hernandez were close friends who smoked marijuana, partied together, and dated siblings. Similarly, he stressed the absence of a witness to testify on seeing Hernandez kill Lloyd as well as there being no gun on the scene to support the claim.
Establishing a Prima Facia Case for Murder
Establishing a prima facia means the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt for the defense in a murder case. On the other hand, the attorney representing the defendant must establish that all evidence brought before the jury has been proved. For instance, if a gun was used during the murder, physical evidence was to be produced. Furthermore, Hernandez’s fiancée helped in establishing a prima facie case as a witness. In her testimony in the court, she narrated that a few hours after Lloyd was killed, the accused called and informed her to dispose of a box (Levenson, 2017). As a result, this helped the case as inferred by the prosecution due to the evasiveness of the defendant.
There was various evidence produced by the prosecution during the murder trial. For instance, text messages, video surveillance from his house, tire tracks at the crime scene, and, the bubble gum retrieved from the trash can form part of the evidence. These were matched with the 45-caliber shell casing used to kill Lloyd (Croaker, 2015). This was significant in collaborating with the aforementioned testimony by his fiancée that indeed the accused was at the scene of the murder.
The defense team was led by Fee and Sultan in the closing remarks or statements during the trial. For the first time since the case began, the defense team admitted that Hernandez was present during the killing. However, he was confused and did not know the best thing to do (Sterbenz & Gaines, 2017). This was a confession from the defense aimed at enticing the jury to sympathize with a young man who had witnessed a crime.
Aaron Hernandez’s past lifestyle played a major role in the outside factors that contributed eventually to his conviction. He was an individual who was violent and had once punched a restaurant manager damaging his eardrum. In May 2014, he was charged with the murders of Fertado and del Abreu (Gregory, 2020). Further, he was accused of being present in a local pub shooting but refused to state the incident by invoking the individual right to counsel clause in the law. According to Patterson & Abramovich (2018), Aaron Hernandez was the All-American youngest player who reached the Super Bowl with every move in the headlines, yet he had a gruesome dark private life ending in prison. This shows that his past contributed immensely to his conviction.
This case is an eye-opener to a young scholar of criminal justice. The main insight from the trial is the importance of circumstantial evidence that leads to a conviction (COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT, 2018). It makes one appreciate the thoroughness of criminal investigators and how simple facts or actions in a crime scene such as tire tracks and bubble gums can help as evidence to solve a case.
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COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS SUPREME JUDICIAL COURT. (2018). COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, Appellant, vs. AARON J. HERNANDEZ, Appellee. Massachusetts Cases. Web.
Croaker, Q. (2015). Aaron Hernandez Trial-Day 1, Part I. YouTube. Web.
Croaker, Q. (2015). Aaron Hernandez Trial-Day 1, Part II. YouTube. Web.
Gregory, H. (2020). Making a murderer: Media renderings of brain injury and Aaron Hernandez as a medical and sporting subject. Social Science & Medicine, 244, 112598.
Levenson, E. (2017). ‘All of this is lies’: Aaron Hernandez trial wraps up closing arguments. CNN.
Patterson, J., & Abramovich, A. (2018). All-American murder: The rise and fall of Aaron Hernandez, the superstar whose life ended on murderers’ row. Little, Brown.
Richer, A. D. (2019). Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction reinstated by mass. High court. WBUR.
Sterbenz, C., & Gaines, C. (2017). How prosecutors proved former NFL player Aaron Hernandez guilty of murder. PULSE.