While his former New England Patriots teammates were rotating between the circus that is Super Bowl Media Week and actually preparing to face the Seattle Seahawks in what would become one of the most captivating Super Bowls of all-time, Aaron Hernandez sat in a courtroom last Thursday for the first day of his trial for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.
The prosecutor in the trial, District Attorney Patrick Bomberg, indicated during his opening statement that the government has an extremely strong case against Hernandez. Among the evidence the prosecution will offer is video footage from Hernandez’s house that links him to the murder by showing Lloyd stepping into a rental car that Hernandez was driving, and Hernandez later returning without Lloyd.
Hernandez’s counsel, on the other hand, seemed to focus his opening statement on the investigation into the murder as much as the events on the night of the murder. Defense attorney Michael Fee, Esq., argued to the jury that the investigation was “sloppy and unprofessional” and that the evidence will demonstrate that his client was innocent, but he did not indicate the content of the alleged exonerating evidence.
Mark Geragos, a criminal defense attorney with experience in high-profile cases, believes that the prosecution will find it difficult to convince a jury to convict Hernandez. Geragos said last Thursday night on CNN that the prosecution is relying too heavily on circumstantial evidence. He also cited Hernandez being an attractive male before a female-majority-jury as a factor that could lead to him being found not guilty.
Despite Geragos’s assertions, it appears to me that Hernandez’s chances of being found innocent are slim. As noted by Sports Illustrated writer and Massachusetts sports law attorney Michael McCann here, in Massachusetts a defendant can be convicted of murder under a “joint venture” theory—a defendant who significantly assists in carrying out a murder can be convicted, without actually physically committing the murder. Accordingly, to convict Hernandez, jurors will only be required to believe he was intimately involved with Lloyd’s murder.
Hernandez’s trial is expected to last between six and ten weeks. While a conviction is not guaranteed by any means, the weight of the evidence discussed in opening arguments suggests a high likelihood that Hernandez’s shocking and tragic downfall from a talented football player with a $40 million contract to a murder convict is inevitable.