Aaron Hernandez was a graduate of Bristol Central High School, where he excelled at football. He received a scholarship to the University of Florida, from which he was drafted into the NFL by the New England Patriots. This was a dream come true for Aaron, but also for the community of Bristol. He was our hometown hero. He was a role model for the children of Bristol, who thought that if one of their own could do it, so could they.
That all seemed to change on Wednesday June 26, 2013 when Aaron Hernandez was arrested for murder in the first degree. Along with that charge, he also had one charge of carrying a firearm without a license, and two charges for possessing a large capacity firearm without an FID card. Because there is no presumption of bail for first degree murder, and because the judge felt there was a risk of flight based upon his excessive means, the judge held Aaron without bail. Thus, he will sit in jail until (1) he can convince the judge to allow him to be released on bail (which seems unlikely); (2) he pleads guilty (where he will then do more time, but, of course, get credit for the amount of time for which he is incarcerated now); (3) he is found guilty by a jury of his peers (again, getting credit for his pre-conviction time); or (4) he is found not guilty by a jury of his peers, at which time he would be free to go.
With a first degree murder charge, if convicted, Aaron could be facing life in prison without the possibility of parole, the harshest punishment from the Massachusetts courts since the state does not have the death penalty. First degree murder is defined by statute as “the unjustified killing of another person with deliberately premeditated malice aforethought, or murder executed with extreme atrocity and cruelty, or murder resulting from the commission of a crime punishable with death or imprisonment for life.” This crime is defined and governed by Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 265 Section 1. Thus, in general, the prosecution will have to prove that Aaron had the specific criminal intent to take the life of Odin Lloyd.
At the arraignment, the prosecution summarized the facts that brought the state to arrest Hernandez. The prosecutor said the crime stemmed from a night out at a Boston club called Rumor on June 14, 2013. He said Hernandez was upset about certain things, including that Lloyd had talked to some people Hernandez “had troubles with.”
Two days later, on the night of June 16, 2013, Hernandez texted two friends from Connecticut and asked them to hurry back to Massachusetts. Surveillance footage from outside Hernandez’s home showed him leaving with a gun, and he told someone in the house that he was upset and couldn’t trust anyone anymore, the prosecutor said. The three men picked up Lloyd at his home around 2:30 a.m., according to authorities. As they drove around, they discussed what happened at the nightclub, and Lloyd started getting nervous, the prosecutor said. Lloyd texted his sister, “Did you see who I am with?” When she asked who, Lloyd answered, at 3:22 a.m., “NFL,” then, a minute later, “Just so you know.” Within a few minutes after that, people working the overnight shift at the industrial park reported hearing gunshots. At 3:27 a.m., the vehicle is picked up by another camera, and at 3:29 a.m., the vehicle returned to Hernandez’s home, which is a two-minute drive from the industrial park. The surveillance footage from Hernandez’s house shows Aaron walking into his home with a gun in his hand, and then the surveillance footage is shut off.
Investigators did not specify who fired the shots and did not identify the two other people who were with Hernandez. Ultimately, however, it would not matter who fired the shots that actually killed Lloyd. All three would be considered accomplices, and an accomplice will be as guilty as the principal of a crime if the accomplice knowingly participated in the crime and had the mental state required for the offense. Thus, even if Hernandez did not pull the trigger that killed Lloyd, he could still be found guilty of first degree murder.
I must say that I agree with Hernandez’s defense attorney when he stated at the arraignment that the case was circumstantial. The police have a Nissan Altima, rented in Hernandez’s name. They have surveillance footage from many businesses, including Aaron’s own home, which he recently installed. They also have 6-8 hours of missing surveillance footage in the hours after the murder. The prosecution seemed to also make a big deal out of Bubblicious gum, which surveillance showed was purchased by Aaron and found in the vehicle and in a dumpster, next to a .45 caliber shell casing.
The defense tried to argue for bail, saying that Aaron had never before been accused of a violent crime and he could never flee, considering the media coverage he has had since this case began. The defense also claimed that Aaron would submit to any conditions set by the court, but the judge denied bail.
Now it is in the hands of the prosecutor. It is a circumstantial case, since there are no witnesses. As of right now, there is no one that could say exactly what happened to Mr. Lloyd. That could change, as one of the three individuals could turn on the others. But, the question is will this be enough to convince a jury that Hernandez is guilty of murder in the first degree. Hernandez’s mother was quoted in the Bristol Press, saying that Aaron will be acquitted of the charges. Although it is “just” circumstantial, circumstantial evidence is enough to convict if it convinces a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty.
Time will tell if there is enough evidence here to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez is guilty. Time will tell what the defense will be in this case, if there is one. The Bristol community will be eagerly awaiting news from Massachusetts about this case and will be watching intently as the scenes unfold.
But, there are still many things that are certain. Odin Lloyd was murdered, and his family is missing him terribly. Aaron Hernandez was arrested, and his family is hurting also. He has an 8 month old daughter, who will likely grow up (even if it is for a short time) without her father. The Patriots lost a valuable player. And the entire community of Bristol lost a hometown hero. There are no winners in this case. Only sadness.