In the first Aaron Hernandez murder trial, the former Patriots tight end’s lawyers may have failed to be as careful as they should have been.
Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports explains the latest fascinating turn in the case arising from the death of Odin Lloyd. By consistently referring to Lloyd as Hernandez’s friend, Hernandez’s high-priced lawyer may have inadvertently allowed evidence of another time Hernandez shot a supposed friend to be introduced.
Aaron Hernandez is charged in the June 17, 2013, killing of Odin Lloyd. The murder took place in an industrial park in North Attleboro, MA. Lloyd's body was found the next day by a jogger. According to the defense team, Odin Lloyd was a "friend' of Hernandez.
On February 13, 2013, Alexander Bradley left a nightclub in Miami, FL. with Aaron Hernandez. Bradley was shot in the face by Hernandez and his body was left in an "isolated industrial area." Hernandez fled the scene. Miraculously, Bradley survived the attack, losing vision in one eye. Bradley sued Hernandez in civil court in a case that is still pending.
June 16, 2012 was the double murder of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado. The two men had left the Cure, a nightclub in Boston located in the theatre district. Abreu and Furtado were shot and killed in their car in the South End by Aaron Hernandez.
Alexander Bradley may have been shot over a "bar bill." Abreu and Furtado may have been killed over "spilled drinks." Odin Lloyd may have been killed over "his knowledge of something." Each case clearly shows the overreaction of Aaron Hernandez in dealing with minor incidences. Defense attorneys were trying to show that Hernandez would not shoot a "friend." They may have "opened the door" for prosecutors to show evidence contradicting such claims.
Rule 404(B) - Crimes and Other Isolated Acts of Bad Character. Prosecutors want prior criminal behavior to be used as evidence. Jurors are generally willing to give the benefit of doubt if this is a first offense. If a pattern of poor behavior is portrayed, this negates the presumption of innocence. Prosecutors have asked Judge Susan Garsh to overturn her original ruling that evidence from prior cases not be allowed.
The problem with Rule 404(B) evidence is that it can create a trial within a trial, with the trial of the main case being placed on hold while a mini-trial emerges on the question of whether the defendant did the other thing he’s accused of doing. The bigger challenge comes from the requirement that the relevance of the evidence to the current case must substantially outweigh any unfair prejudice arising from it.
Aaron Hernandez' defense attorneys have not been very careful while speaking during the first murder trial for the former New England Patriots' tight end. "Don’t speak when you can nod" might have been a better strategy.
Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.