FALL RIVER, Mass. (CN) – Witnesses doubled down Wednesday on undermining Aaron Hernandez’s claims that he was friends with the man he allegedly murdered.
Hernandez, the 25-year-old former tight end for the New England Patriots, has been held without bail since his arrest in June 2013 for the murder that month of Odin Lloyd.
The men met through their girlfriends, Shaneah and Shayanna Jenkins, and the latter sister remains engaged to Hernandez.
Since opening statements, the defense has fought motive, saying Hernandez has no motive to kill 27-year-old Lloyd because the men were friends, but prosecutors are using testimony from Lloyd’s mother and girlfriend to show otherwise.
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, took the stand just after noon Wednesday while the jury was on recess.
Prosecutor William McCauley showed the court a photo of Lloyd, only his head exposed in a blue body bag. His lips are parted, revealing gleaming white teeth. There is what looks like a bruise on his brow, and his eyes are closed. (Click here to see the image.)
On the stand, Ward confirmed this was the photo shown to her at the Cape Cod medical examiner’s office, where she went to identify her son’s body. The mother remained poised though somewhat disturbed from the exchange.
Hernandez’s defense did not want the photo shown to the jury. Attorney Michael Fee said it was “just plain cruel and unnecessary,” and “the consequence … would be to illicit an emotional reaction.”
Judge E. Susan Garsh disagreed: “I find that the photo itself is not gruesome.” She admitted the photo saying, “Given the lack of inflammatory quality of the photograph … outweighs any prejudicial impact.”
Before the jury was brought back in to the courtroom, Garsh addressed Ward. “I understand that this is very emotional for you,” the judge said. “But it is going very important that you manage, during this time you are testifying, to retain control of your emotions and not to cry while you’re looking at any photo that may be shown to you.” (Click here to see the exchange.)
When the jury re-entered the courtroom, Ward, who is from Antigua, West Indies, gave a brief history of how, at 21 years old, she moved to St. Croix, Virgin Islands, where Lloyd was born, and then to Dorchester, Mass., in the late 1980s, where she had two more children, both girls, and bought a house.
She and her daughters, now 26 and 21, still live there.
Ward said Lloyd, whose last residence was the home Ward bought upon her arrival to the country, did not go to college because they could not afford it.
Instead, he attended technical school for electricians. In the spring of 2013, however, Lloyd took a landscaping job, for which he rode his bike 20 miles to work.
The last time Ward saw Lloyd was on Father’s Day, a Sunday. Ward had just gotten home from church, and Lloyd was in front of their neighbor’s house. “I just saw his beautiful pink gums smiling from across the street at me,” Ward said.
While trying to elaborate on their conversation when the prosecutor asked if the two had spoken, Ward was interrupted by the judge. “You have to listen, if you would, carefully to the questions,” Garsh said. Just answer the specific questions asked and not go on and add anything at all.”
Ward nodded in agreement, and then confirmed she was never to see her son again after this interaction. She called him the following day after she got home from cosmetology class at 2 p.m., but got voicemail.
Ward’s chest began to rise and fall with deep breaths as she explained how police came to her house around 10:30 p.m. to explain why her son had not answered his phone that day.
Her solemn visage juxtaposed with the cheerful Caribbean colors in her attire, a necklace that held three short rows of shimmering purple dots, which dangled down to the high neckline of her crisp white shirt.
Next, prosecution showed another picture of Lloyd to the jury. In this one, he was in front of a neighbor’s house, smiling, wearing a backpack and the same shirt he had on in the pictures the prosecution had shown during opening statements of Lloyd’s lifeless body splayed on the ground.
Lloyd had “quite a few friends,” Ward said, after naming a few of them. One person she did not know, however, was Hernandez. She had never met him. (Click here to see the testimony.)
There was no cross-examination of Ward, but Hernandez’s team did question Lloyd’s girlfriend, Jenkins, that morning.
Defense attorney Charles Rankin kept Jenkins, who had testified for almost three days for the prosecution, on the stand for less than an hour.
Rankin’s questions focused on the time Lloyd spend with Hernandez at family gatherings, including when the couple would visit Jenkins’ sister and Hernandez at their North Attleboro home.
In a bid to undermine that testimony, the prosecution followed up with questions that emphasized how “everybody” was hanging out with Aaron during these occasions.
The trial is expected to last six to 10 weeks.
After it concludes, Hernandez faces a separate, unrelated trial on two counts of first-degree murder for the July 2012 killings of two men in Boston’s South End.
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