Aaron Hernandez trial could go to jury next week
The lead attorney representing Aaron Hernandez said his team may not call any witnesses in the former Patriots tight end’s double-murder trial, arguing the commonwealth has not met its burden in proving Hernandez’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
“We haven’t made an official decision that we are going to need to put (a defense) on,” Jose Baez told the Herald yesterday. “We are certainly prepared to, should we put one on. That’s something we are going to assess this weekend.”
Bypassing any witness testimony on the fallen NFL star’s behalf would move the trial to closing arguments and could give the case to the jury early next week. Hernandez is charged with killing Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu in a July 16, 2012, drive-by shooting in the South End.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke instructed jurors last week not to read anything into a possible lack of defense witnesses, reminding them criminal defendants are not required to offer any defense and the burden of proof rests entirely with the commonwealth.
Suffolk County prosecutors have not met that burden, Baez said.
“I certainly don’t think they did. They didn’t meet their burden because Aaron’s not guilty,” Baez said. “He didn’t commit this crime, and just because it’s been popular to hate him doesn’t make him guilty of anything. This case is high on emotion and low on evidence.”
Baez said the prosecution told the jury the weaknesses in its case at the beginning of the trial, referencing the lack of forensic evidence, the lack of a clear motive aside from a spilled drink that was not caught on video, and star witness Alexander Bradley, who the defense has said was the real triggerman.
“Those were their biggest fears,” Baez said, “for good reason.”
Prosecutors are expected to officially rest their case when court reconvenes Monday morning after 21 days, 64 witnesses and 376 exhibits entered into evidence.
The state’s final witness, Dr. Katherine Lindstrom from the state’s medical examiner’s office, yesterday offered graphic testimony about Furtado and de Abreu’s deaths. Furtado, she said, would have died instantly after being shot in the head. With his father listening in the third row of the courtroom, Lindstrom said bullets tore through de Abreu’s body, filling his chest cavity with blood during his horrific final moments.
“He could have survived seconds to maybe a couple of minutes,” Lindstrom said, noting de Abreu would have been in pain and breathed blood into his lungs as he gasped for air before losing consciousness.
Hernandez, already serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of his friend Odin L. Lloyd, has pleaded not guilty to the slayings.
The defendant seemed surprised when he walked into the courtroom yesterday morning and saw several friends and family members sitting in the first two rows. He offered warm waves and smiles to loved ones seated a few feet behind the defense table.