Former NFL star guilty of murder
Published 16/04/2015 | 02:30
American football: Aaron Hernandez, the 25-year-old former star of the NFL's New England Patriots, was yesterday convicted by a Massachusetts jury of first degree murder in the killing of his one-time friend Odin Lloyd.
He was sentenced to life in prison without parole - the mandatory punishment for such a crime in a state which no longer has the death penalty.
The unanimous verdict was the climax of a three-month trial in the old Massachusetts mill town of Fall River, over the "cruel and atrocious" death of Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found on June 17, 2013 in an abandoned industrial park close to Hernandez's home. Nine days later, he and two associates, who are being tried separately, were charged with the murder.
With no eyewitness and no murder weapon found, the prosecution assembled a complex mosaic of circumstantial evidence, calling more than 100 witnesses. After 35 hours of deliberation, the jury was convinced, rejecting the defence's claim that Hernandez was present at, but not a participant in, the murders. He was also convicted of two firearms offences.
Hernandez story has less to do with the NFL than with the downward spiral of a man who was an immensely talented football player by day, but little more than a street thug by night.
Testimony painted a portrait of a drug-user prone to bouts of paranoiac rage, irresistibly drawn to gang culture and gang violence. When the Patriots gave him a $40m five-year contract in 2012, Hernandez had it made - only to throw everything away.
Nor are Hernandez's legal troubles over. Eleven months after his arrest in the Lloyd case, the former Patriots player was indicted for the murder of two Cape Verdeans in a drive-by shooting near a bar in Boston in July 2012. Jurors in Fall River were not told of this second set of charges.
If anything, however, the evidence appears even more damning, with both eyewitnesses and a murder weapon. The apparent misdeed of the victims was to have accidentally spilled a drink over Hernandez - the same sort of "disrespect" that appears to have led to the premeditated murder of Lloyd.