New York: A US jury on Wednesday convicted former NFL star Aaron Hernandez of first-degree murder after seven days of deliberations, following a high-profile trial in Massachusetts. Hernandez now faces life in prison over the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player from the Boston area who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.
Aaron Hernandez. Pic/AFP
The 25-year-old former New England Patriots tight end, wearing a gray suit and a black tie, sat down after the jury pronounced him guilty of murder in the first degree. The jury also found him guilty of two weapons charges. Hernandez has been in jail since his arrest on June 26, 2013.
He was released by the Patriots hours after he was taken into custody. Prosecutors said Hernandez and two accomplices, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, drove with Lloyd to an industrial park in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, where Lloyd was shot multiple times and left for dead. A jogger found Lloyd's body on June 17, 2013, less than a mile from Hernandez's luxury home.
The murder weapon was never found. Prosecutors called more than 130 witnesses in an effort to prove Hernandez pulled the trigger on the handgun that killed Lloyd. In his closing statement, defense attorney James Sultan had acknowledged for the first time since the trial began in January that Hernandez witnessed the killing. But the lawyer said the crime must have been committed by either Wallace or Ortiz, who are to be tried separately on murder charges.
"He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed something," Sultan said. "A shocking killing. Committed by someone he knew. He didn't know what to do." Prosecutor William McCauley had implored the jury members to pore over the evidence, saying it would lead to a conclusion of Hernandez's guilt on the first-degree murder charge. Judge Susan Garsh told the jury it was up to them whether they were willing to talk to the media after reaching their verdict.