Following 35 hours of jury deliberations, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez was handed a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole on Wednesday, after being found guilty of murder, carrying a firearm without a license and four more weapon and ammunition charges.
In courtroom video released after the verdicts were read, the families of both Lloyd and Hernandez are seen sobbing after the jury delivers the guilty decision. While Hernandez expressed little emotion throughout the trial, he simply shook his head after the verdict was read. Hernandez was also shown mouthing “Stay strong” to his mother and fiancée Shayanna Jenkins, who was called upon to testify during the murder trial. The former NFL star was then shackled and removed from the courthouse.
Despite the fact that the prosecution presented no witnesses to the shooting or a murder weapon during the 10-week trial, they were able to build a case out of circumstantial evidence including, and perhaps most damning, a piece of gum with Hernandez’s DNA attached a bullet casing used in the Lloyd murder. Lloyd, an semi-pro football player and the boyfriend of Hernandez’s fiancée’s sister, was shot numerous times by a .45-caliber Glock pistol, including two bullets in his chest while he writhed on the ground in pain, the Boston Globe reports.
While Hernandez’s attorneys admitted his client was present when Lloyd was killed in an industrial park near the football player’s home, they argued that the former Patriots star did not pull the trigger, and with no murder weapon, motive or witnesses, there was enough reasonable doubt to acquit.
However, after a lengthy deliberation – ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack even admitted on air that he was convinced that a hung jury was imminent – the jury collectively agreed that Hernandez committed the murder by reason of “extreme atrocity and cruelty.” Jenkins’ testimony that she was asked by Hernandez to get rid of a box believed to contain the murder weapon, as well as Hernandez’s attempts to destroy his own surveillance equipment, also conspired against the Patriots star, who in August 2012 signed a $40 million contract with New England.
Despite the life sentence, Hernandez will still be tried for his alleged role as the triggerman in the 2012 drive-by double-murder outside a Boston nightclub. That trial was set begin in May, but has since been moved and will be rescheduled “in the coming days,” according to the district attorney handling the case.