Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is currently on trial for his alleged role in a double murder dating back to 2012. Hernandez was once a rising star in the NFL, who signed an extension worth $40 million with the Patriots in 2012. At the time, it was the second richest extension ever given to a tight end in league history, but it wouldn’t last. Hernandez was released from the team in 2013 following his arrest for the murder of onetime friend Odin Lloyd. From there, Hernandez’s story and life of crime started to become clearer, the public began to learn this gifted athlete had a very dark side filled with drugs and violence. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison for that crime without the possibility of parole. Hernandez maintained his innocence even after the verdict was read.
Now Hernandez is on trial for the the murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting outside a nightclub in Boston’s South End in 2012 stemming from an altercation at a nightclub. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and has also pleaded not guilty to witness intimidation charges for allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley, his former friend and drug dealer, in an attempt to silence him about the murders.
With prosecutors resting their case after a month of testimony, here’s everything you need to know about the trial, from how Hernandez’s former best friend turned into the star witness to the case Hernandez’s lawyer is making.
Hernandez is on trial for two counts of murder – but he’s already doing life
Hernandez is accused of murdering Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in 2012. He was indicted in 2014 on two charges of first-degree murder, three charges of armed assault with intent to murder and one count of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
Hernandez is also serving a life sentence in prison without parole for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. Lloyd’s body was found one mile away from Hernandez’s house and the Massachusetts State Police obtained a search warrant based on evidence that Hernandez intentionally destroyed his house’s security system and, according to Yahoo News, allegedly hired a team of house cleaners.
Hernandez’s former friend is the star witness
Alexander Bradley is known to be Hernandez’s former friend and drug dealer, as well as the individual who was with Hernandez on the night de Abreu and Furtado were murdered.
According to Bradley’s testimony, de Abreu set Hernandez off by dancing into him and spilling a drink on him at Cure Lounge on Tremont Street in Boston before laughing and smirking. Bradley suggested he and Hernandez go to another club across the street once he saw how Hernandez responded – “Mr. Hernandez was upset,” he said, “the individual didn’t show respect and apologize” – when they believed they saw de Abreu again, thinking they were being followed.
Bradley convinced Hernandez to leave once again and said they were then “walking and smoking and talking” around the Theater District in an attempt to calm him down. The two eventually got into Hernandez’s SUV and drove around the area when they spotted de Abreu with his four friends getting into a BMW. Hernandez told Bradley to roll down the SUV’s windows and run a red light so they could pull up next to them. That’s when Hernandez allegedly yelled a racial slur at them and fired five shots into the car, killing two people and injuring the other passengers.
Bradley remembers Hernandez saying “don’t tell anybody” and “don’t say nothing” following the incident. He also claims Hernandez said he “got one in the head, one in the chest.”
— Christina Hager (@HagerWBZ) March 31, 2017
Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation for allegedly shooting Bradley in the face and leaving him for dead in 2013. In a news release, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office alleged at the time that Hernandez did so after the witness “made a remark about the homicides.” Bradley lost his right eye in the shooting.
One of the passengers identified Hernandez as the shooter
Aquilino Freire and Raychides Sanches were two of the individuals who were in the car with de Abreu and Furtado on the night they were murdered. When asked to describe the shooter in December of 2016, Sanches said he looked like Hernandez. Freire, who said he was shot twice during the night in question, told the court that the shooter was light-skinned with no beard but tattoos.
Hernandez’s lawyer claims Bradley committed the murder
Hernandez pleaded not guilty to the alleged murders of de Abreu and Furtado. During opening statements, Hernandez’s lawyer Jose Baez claimed to the jury that Bradley was the one who shot them over a botched drug deal. Baez said Bradley is an unreliable witness because he’s a “drug trafficker.” (Bradley acknowledged he sold drugs for around 17 years.)
“There is no science that will connect Aaron Hernandez to this case,” Baez said. “What you do have is Bradley’s story. An unbelievable, fantastic tale of lies.”
According to CNN, prosecutors introduced almost 500 text messages between Bradley and Hernandez during the trial to show the disconnect between the two sides. For example, Bradley sent messages to Hernandez saying “I never thought ud be da one to shoot me” and reportedly asked Hernandez to pay him to keep his mouth shut. In response, Hernandez said “I love u and ur not gonna frame me for some bread.”
Bradley is also accused of deleting the following text message to his lawyer Robert Pickering, which some believe could clear Hernandez of double murder: “Now you sure once I withdraw this lawsuit I won’t be held on perjury after I tell the truth about me not recalling anything about who shot me?” Bradley said he doesn’t “recall what calls or messages I have or have not deleted” and claimed he was trying to figure out if he could testify without getting Hernandez criminally charged.
Regardless of the outcome, Bradley received immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony. (Bradley is currently in prison for charges related to a separate club shooting.) Baez was able to find the deleted text because Bradley was forced to hand over phone records and any information he had with his previous lawyer as part of the deal.
Hernandez’s fiancee stood by his side
Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, took the witness stand during his trial. She legally took Hernandez’s name in 2015 despite the fact that Odin Lloyd (the man Hernandez was found guilty of murdering in 2013) was her sister’s boyfriend at the time of his death.
Cell phone records show that Hernandez left a 17-second voicemail to Jenkins-Hernandez seven minutes after de Abreu and Furtado were shot to death. Jenkins-Hernandez, however, said she has no memory of receiving a voicemail from Hernandez during that time. She then went on to say she never asked Hernandez questions – not when she found out Bradley had been shot or when his car went missing following the deaths of de Abreu and Furtado – because she played her role.
“Meaning I cleaned and I did everything else,” she said when asked what she meant. “I mean, there was no reason for me to ask any questions.”
She didn’t learn about what happened to Bradley from Hernandez, either. She instead learned it from an unidentified source. Her reasoning for not approaching Hernandez about what happening with his close friend was she chose her battles, she said.
“[Bradley] was not my friend. We weren’t sitting on the couch eating popcorn and watching movies,” she said. “I pick and choose my battles. There are some things that are worth arguing about. There are some things that aren’t. I didn’t see that as being one of them.”
Jenkins-Hernandez also revealed that she discovered a gun in a “junk drawer” in Hernandez’s home. While she didn’t think Hernandez had a gun license, she wasn’t bothered by the discovery because “there [are] many people that arm themselves and have guns in their homes.” Like Bradley, Jenkins-Hernandez testified under a grant of immunity from prosecutors.