Aaron Hernandez's defense attorney argued Thursday that prosecutors targeted the former New England Patriot from the very beginning because he was a well known professional football player.
"As soon as they found out that Aaron Hernandez, the celebrity football player, the New England Patriot, was a friend of Odin Lloyd's, Aaron never had a chance. It was over," defense attorney Michael Fee said during opening arguments of the murder trial.
Hernandez, 25, is charged with killing Lloyd, a 27-year-old semiprofessional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. At the time of the killing on June 17, 2013, Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots.
Fee called the investigation "sloppy and unprofessional," saying prosecutors locked onto Hernandez even when they found out other people were involved who were not friends with Lloyd. He said Hernandez had no intent, and no reason, to murder his friend.
"Aaron Hernandez is an innocent man," he said. "The evidence will show that he did not murder his friend Odin Lloyd."
Fee also described Hernandez’s lifestyle in the off-season. He said Hernandez liked to drink, smoke marijuana, go to clubs, and that he and his friends were “always looking to hook up with women.”
Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg gave the opening statement for the prosecution, laying out the timeline and mapping the route Hernandez and his co-defendants took on June 17 using surveillance video and texts in an effort to show that Hernandez was upset with Lloyd and later tried to cover it up.
Bomberg played video surveillance that he said showed Lloyd getting into a car driven by Hernandez shortly before his killing, then video taken at Hernandez's home shortly after the killing without Lloyd in the car.
He showed them an image taken off Hernandez's video surveillance system that showed Hernandez standing outside his basement, holding in his left hand what Bomberg said was a gun. He also told jurors that a marijuana joint found near Lloyd's body had both Lloyd and Hernandez's DNA on it.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston, drove him to the industrial park and shot him to death.
Ortiz and Wallace have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.
After opening statements on Thursday, the prosecution called its first two witnesses - Lorne Giroux, who owns the fertilizer company where Odin Lloyd worked, and the 17-year-old who found Lloyd's body while out running through the North Attleborough Industrial Park. Testimony is scheduled to resume Friday morning.
Hernandez arrived in court Thursday with his mother, brother and fiancee sitting behind him. Lloyd's family was also in court.
Hernandez sat at the defense table, chewing gum and reading notes from a legal pad. During a break prior to the start of opening statements, he was turned around talking to his mother. They were both smiling, and Hernandez seemed engaged and loose, even laughing at one point.
Lloyd's family sat quietly, wiping away tears during opening statements. At one point when a picture of Lloyd's dead body was shown on the monitors, his mother was overcome by emotion and briefly left the courtroom in tears.
Opening statements were delayed briefly Thursday while a judge addressed a couple of jury issues. One juror was late to court, and another juror sent a note to the judge. The judge then individually questioned jurors before swearing them in. Opening statements had already been postponed for two days due to the blizzard.
A full jury including 12 jurors and 6 alternates was seated Monday. Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh spent more than a week questioning potential jurors to weed out people who were biased, have a hardship, or have a valid reason to be excused. More than 1,000 people were originally called.
Six of the 18 jurors will be randomly selected as alternates immediately before deliberations begin.
Nearly 300 people are on the prosecution's list of potential witnesses, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.
Among the others listed as potential witnesses is Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. Prosecutors have said Jenkins lied dozens of times to the grand jury investigating Lloyd's killing, including when she said she couldn't remember where she disposed of a large box from the basement of their home that Hernandez apparently told her to get rid of. She had been granted immunity before her grand jury testimony.
The trial, expected to last six to 10 weeks, will not be the end of Hernandez's legal troubles. He faces separate murder charges in Boston, where he is accused of killing two men after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on him at a nightclub in 2012. That trial date has not yet been set.