Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez sat through opening statements Wednesday as his double murder trial got underway. The former star NFL player who had a bright future and freshly signed $40 million contract will almost certainly never get to play football again after he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole when he was convicted nearly two years ago in another murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.
The double murder case is thought by most legal experts to be the easier of the two cases, though conviction is not a certainty. The lack of forensic evidence tying Hernandez to the murders as well as the length of time between the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado could prove troubling for prosecutors.
Nonetheless, here is what prosecutors told jurors happened at the “chance happening” on July 16, 2012.
Prosecutor Pat Haggan said Hernandez was out on the town with a convicted cocaine dealer and they headed to the Cure nightclub when Hernandez was bumped by de Abreu and a drink spilled as a result of the physical contact. Abreu, according to prosectors, did not think much of the incident and did not apologize to Hernandez. Haggan said this was taken as a lack of respect by Hernandez, while most people wouldn’t have given it a second thought.
He then told jurors video surveillance outside a club shows Alexander Bradley, a one-time friend of Hernandez’s, pleading with the NFL star to calm down. After spending several hours at more clubs, Haggan said Hernandez retrieved a gun from a secret compartment in his vehicle and began circling the area, essentially hunting de Abreu and his crew. Unfortunately for de Arbreu, prosecutors allege Hernandez located him, running a red light in the process to pull up besides de Abreu’s vehicle. He then allegedly called the man’s name.
According to Haggan, Bradley plans to take the stand to say what allegedly happened next. Awe will testify Hernandez pulled up and said, “Yo, what’s up now?” Bradley is then expect to accuse Hernandez of shouting a racial slur before learning across the driver seat and firing five shots into the de Abreau vehicle. In addition to killing de Abreu, Hernandez allegedly killed Furtado, a passenger in the car. A third passenger in the backseat was stuck with two bullets and then Hernandez’s gun allegedly ran out of ammo and he vanished off of down the Mass Turnpike.
With little to go on, investigators reportedly believed int was likely a act of gang violence. Haggan said Bradley participated in the silence for nearly 7 months and then he slipped up, mentioning the incident to Hernandez. The mention of the shooting allegedly served to sign Bradley’s death warrant.
“At that point, Aaron Hernandez knew that he could no longer trust Alexander Bradley,” Haggan explained. And the next day, Hernandez is accused of shooting Bradley, permanently damaging his eye. While Bradley miraculously survived, that shooting earned Hernandez a witness intimidation charge that he will face at a later date.
Prosecutors then got a big break when Bradley decided to turn in the state’s evidence and agreed to testify agiinasy his finger friend. They got even more lucky when it happened that Hernandez was named in the Lloyd murder and because the car used in the Lloyd killing matched surveillance video and witness statements of the getaway car in the double murder years earlier, cops had some questions. Investigators obtained a warrant and found a silver Toyota 4Runner on a property connected to Hernandez. That connection, along with Bradley turning in state’s evidence, proved to be Hernandez’s ultimate downfall, according to investigators.
Although, Bradley is not the best witness and he has significant baggage given his criminal past and he is in fact reportedly serving time for his own shooting up of a nightclub. Haggan did his best to draw all Bradley’s negative history out on his direct examination, but that was a lot to ask. He hoped to preempt the defense from making it major issue.
This tactic was especially important because Hernandez is represented by Jose Baez, the attorney made famous (or infamous depending on your perspective) for getting Casey Anthony acquitted of the killing of her daughter. Not only did he hammer Bradley and call him a drug dealer, he actually accused Bradley of being the shooter that night. He also asked the jury to use common sense, trying to convince jurors famous athletes with millions in the bank do not have reason to kill. The shooting was never over a spilled drink, rather Baez claimed it was a drug deal (unbeknownst to Hernandez) between Bradley and the two victims.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this did not happen over a spilled drink”, Baez said. “This happened over a drug deal,”
Baez was also quick to point out to the the jury there is no DNA, fingerprints or any other forensic evidence linking Hernandez to the murders. And he suggested de Abreu knew Bradley and that the shooting was actually a fight over drugs.
The first witnesses to take the stand was Abreu’s sister, Neusa de Abreu, and she testified that her brother was not a drug dealer and had never mentioned Bradley.
The trial resumes on Thursday and LawNewz will continue to cover all the action.
Editor’s note: an earlier version incorrectly identified Hernandez as the man who bumped de Abreu. In fact it was allegedly de Abreu who allegedly Hernandez.
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