In the end, the jury in Boston took longer than expected to come back with a verdict, but thirty-six hours of deliberation produced convictions across the board against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. The panel had the opportunity to convict Hernandez on second-degree murder, but instead chose to find that Hernandez committed murder “with extreme atrocity or cruelty.” Here’s the moment, captured by CBS Boston:
Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was found guilty Wednesday of first-degree murder in a deadly late-night shooting, sealing the downfall of an athlete who once had a $40 million contract and a standout career ahead of him.
Hernandez, 25, looked to his right and pursed his lips after the jury forewoman read the verdict. The first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole in the slaying of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. …
Hernandez’s lawyer, James Sultan, acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed.
But the attorney pinned the shooting on two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, saying his client was a “23-year-old kid” who witnessed a shocking crime and didn’t know what to do. Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial later.
Prosecutors have suggested Lloyd may have been killed because he knew too much about Hernandez’s alleged involvement in a deadly 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston. But they were not allowed to tell the jury that because the judge said it was speculation.
In Massachusetts, the automatic sentence for first-degree murder is life in prison. The Patriots, and the University of Florida where Hernandez first played, erased him from their history already, but the NFL still got a lot of attention in this case. CBS News’ live coverage spent considerable time calling him “a big deal,” a “star” in the league, and noted his All-American status for Florida. They also suggested that had Hernandez shown red flags for violent crime at the time of the draft, he might never have made a team at all. That’s a curious suggestion considering the NFL’s track record, but they did note that the Patriots recently took a pass on a late-round draft athlete with a gun charge on his record.
Coming up: the next murder trial of Hernandez. He’s charged with a double homicide that took place earlier, and which as the AP notes may have been the motive for the murder of Lloyd. A conviction in that case can’t add to Hernandez’ commitment to prison, but it would certainly complicate any attempt to get him out on appeal or clemency. That trial starts this summer.
Update: The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly notes that the conviction has opened up awareness of “Hernandez’ terrifying past”:
When they responded to her 911 call on that June evening in 2010, the Bristol police found Aaron Hernandez’s mother bleeding and trembling.
“I immediately noticed she had a large laceration on her right cheek, and she was holding a napkin to her left wrist,” the subsequent police report stated. “The napkin was filled with blood.”
Police found the man she had married after the death of Aaron’s father in their backyard and a bent knife in the kitchen sink. Jeffrey Cummings was subsequently convicted of slashing her, adding to a criminal record that included drugs and a prior domestic-violence incident in which he stepped on a 4-year-old and threw a 10-year-old child against a wall while physically assaulting an ex-girlfriend and another woman.
Cummings was in prison on a two-year sentence when Terri Hernandez was granted a divorce. The papers on file in Superior Court in New Britain note that the couple was married in Las Vegas on January 16, 2009, three years and 10 days after she became a widow. The marriage was around the time Terri told a reporter from USA Today that her younger son, Aaron, seemed to be finally getting over his fury at the untimely death of his father.
Eh. I think that’s Terri’s (legitimately) terrifying past. If that’s meant to explain Hernandez’ murderous temperament, it seems like a reach, especially since Hernandez himself was living in Florida at the time of the incident and the marriage.