Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial Kicks Off

     FALL RIVER, Mass. (CN) – Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial is set to kick off Thursday, just days before the Super Bowl pits his former New England Patriots against the Seattle Seahawks.
     Judge E. Susan Garsh had postponed deliberations in Bristol County Superior Court after a jury of 13 women and five men was seated Monday, hours before Blizzard Juno left the area buried in up to 3 feet of snow.
     The 25-year-old former tight end has been held with out bail since his June 2013 arrest in connection to the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.
     Hernandez faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder and two weapons charges; the New England Patriots promptly dropped him after his arrest.
     Two friends of Hernandez from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., were also arrested and will be tried separately.
     A jogger discovered Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body on June 17 in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez’s home.
     Lloyd, who played semipro football for the Boston Bandits, had reportedly been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
     At Hernandez’s arraignment, prosecutors had submitted three ominous text messages that Lloyd sent his sister in the minutes before his predawn execution.
     The messages, which Judge Garsh found last month could not be shown to jurors, said: “U see who I’m with?” “NFL.” “just so you know.”
     The Hartford Courant reported that Garsh did admit surveillance footage showing Hernandez and his two hometown friends – Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace – carrying guns into Hernandez’s North Attleborough mansion shortly after those messages were sent.
     Prosecutors say that one of the weapons that the footage shows being carried into Hernandez’s house after the shooting is the same .22 caliber gun found in the woods between Hernandez’s house and the park where Lloyd’s body was left.
     Garsh admitted the gun into evidence, along with that footage, and texts Hernandez sent to Wallace and Ortiz, telling them to come to Massachusetts the night before the shooting, the Courant reported.
     Prosecutors also reportedly told the court last year that workers at a nearby plant heard gunshots at the time Lloyd was shot, between 3:23 and 3:27 a.m.
     Citing unnamed sources, CNN reported that Hernandez had been upset in the days before the murder because he saw Lloyd at a Boston club speaking with an adversary of Hernandez.
     Hernandez’s accused accomplices, 29-year-old Ortiz and 43-year-old Wallace both pleaded not guilty, but Fox Sports says Ortiz made several inconsistent statements about the case to police early in the investigation.
     Ortiz reportedly first claimed that he waited in the car alone at the murder scene, and later said that Wallace may have stayed in the vehicle as well.
     The Associated Press reported that Ortiz also told investigators that Wallace told him Hernandez pulled the trigger.
     GPS evidence from the men’s cellphones could also help prosecutors show that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time of the murder.
     Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, 25, with whom he has a 2-year-old daughter, is charged with disposing of evidence and perjury with regard to her statements to a grand jury. She pleaded not guilty to the charges in October 2013, and Hernandez’s cousin, Tanya Singleton, 37, also pleaded not guilty to criminal contempt and conspiracy to commit accessory after refusing to testify before a grand jury.
     Prosecutors say Singleton drove Wallace to Georgia after Lloyd’s murder and then bought him a bus ticket to South Florida after her car broke down.
     After the Lloyd trial, Hernandez faces more murder charges in Suffolk County in connection to the 2012 shooting in Boston’s South End of Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29.
     Prosecutors say Hernandez followed the two men and their three friends after they left the club Cure because they did not apologize for spilling Hernandez’s drink when one of them bumped into him.
     Hernandez allegedly pulled up next to their car at a stoplight and opened fire.
     The three survivors filed three counts of armed assault with the intent to murder and one count of assault and battery.
     Hernandez faces civil claims with regard to that incident as well. The families of the slain are each seeking $6 million, but the trial was delayed indefinitely in November 2014 for Hernandez’s attorneys to prepare for the Lloyd trial.
     Weeks after the double homicide, the New England Patriots signed Hernandez to a $40-million, five-year deal.
     Bristol County District Attorney Samuel Sutter alongside William McCauley is leading the prosecution, while Hernandez’s legal team consists of Michael Fee, James Sultan, and Charles Rankin.

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