Hernandez Jurors Say|Evidence Was Strong

     FALL RIVER, Mass. (CN) – As Aaron Hernandez was transported in a caravan to the maximum security penitentiary in South Walpole, Mass., for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, jurors and Lloyd’s family answered questions for the media on Wednesday.
     The MCI Cedar Junction, where the former tight end for the New England Patriots will spend the rest of his natural life without possibility for parole, is just 3.5 miles from his old home field Gillette Stadium.
     Hernandez’s case has brought a new notoriety to the city of Fall River, whose previous claim to criminal fame was the acquittal of Lizzie Bordon for 1892 ax murders of her parents.
     After their guilty verdict against Hernandez was read on Wednesday morning, jurors huddled in a group of two rows, much like how they sat during the trial, and answered questions from the media, who crowded them with microphones, cameras and flashing lights.
     “Going by the law, we didn’t need the murder weapon [to convict him],” one female juror noted, contradicting a point Hernandez’s defense attorney had tried to make in closing statements.
     Asked why Hernandez was convicted by reason of extreme atrocity of cruelty, a requirement for first-degree murder, a female juror noted “the shots.”
     “There were six of them,” she said.
     A male juror added: “I think that’s extreme. I think that each of us may have had different opinions as to why we reached that conclusion. … I think some of us got there for different reasons, but we still ultimately reached the same conclusion.”
     It took 35.5 hours over the span of a little more than five days to reach this conclusion, but jurors said they did not begin to form an opinion until after closing statements.
     “We followed the court’s orders,” one female juror told reporters. “We assume that the man sitting in that seat is innocent until the prosecution proves he’s guilty. And that’s what happened today.”
     A male juror said the most compelling testimony for him was from the New England Patriot’s owner, Bob Kraft, who testified on March 31, a week prior to closing statements.
     “One part for me was Aaron’s alleged statement [to Kraft] that he wished that the time that Odin was murdered was made public because he was at a club at that time,” the juror said. “We just went through a three-month trial. We still don’t know the exact time of Odin’s murder specifically, so I don’t know how Aaron would have had that information two years ago.”
     That same juror said it was unlikely any of them would try to profit from their experience on the high-profile hearing. “None of us even wanted to come into this room, so I don’t foresee that for any of us,” he said.
     Outside the courthouse in Fall River, on the first true day of spring weather after one of the most brutal winters on record, Ursula Ward, Lloyd’s mother, spoke with the press. Wearing a vibrant, dark blue shirt and white beaded necklace, Ward first thanked the “heavenly master” and “everyone around the world” for their support and prayers.
     Recounting the last day of Lloyd’s life, Father’s Day, Ward said she saw him on her way home from church. “‘Ma, you look so beautiful today. I love those colors on you,’ and those were the last words I heard from my son,” she said.
     Along with Lloyd’s uncle, sister and cousin, Ward had also made a statement to the court after the verdict was read.
     She told the court, “I forgive the hands of the people who had a hand in my son’s murder, either before or after. I pray and hope that someday everyone out there will forgive them also.”
     Immediately after the verdict was read, loud sobbing spewed from Hernandez’s mother and fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, whose sister had been dating Lloyd before his death. The cries remained in the background as jurors, one by one, confirmed their verdict.
     As she cradled her future daughter-in-law’s head on her chest, Hernandez’s mother mouthed words to her son.
     Hernandez took a seat before the jury finished, licking his lips repeatedly and looking around the courtroom, but otherwise showing no emotion.
     Ward wept momentarily before breathing out a deep sigh, as family members rubbed her shoulders.
     Sitting next to Ward, as she did throughout the duration of the trial, was the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, who introduced Lloyd to his killer. After hearing the jury’s ruling, Shaneah Jenkins leaned forward and held her forehead in right hand, shielding her eyes from the courtroom camera.
     Hernandez still faces separate murder charges in Suffolk County in connection to the 2012 shooting in Boston’s South End of Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29.

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