FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) – Prosecutors laid out what they called compelling forensic evidence – Aaron Hernandez’s DNA on a marijuana cigarette shared with the friend they say he killed – as the ex-NFL star’s trial got underway.
Jurors were to hear more testimony Friday in the case against the former New England Patriots standout, whose lawyers portrayed him as a man with “the world at his feet” and no reason to kill.
With his ex-teammates about to play in the Super Bowl, Hernandez listened intently to Thursday’s opening statements. They offered insights into the prosecution’s case against him and the defense’s strategy to prove his innocence in the 2013 slaying of semipro football player Odin Lloyd.
Hernandez, 25, who caught Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s last Super Bowl touchdown pass in the Patriots’ 2012 loss to the New York Giants, is charged in the shooting death of 27-year-old Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home, not far from Gillette Stadium.
Hernandez – who had a $40 million contract as a tight end but was cut by the Patriots hours after his 2013 arrest – could get life in prison if convicted. On Sunday, the Patriots meet the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.
In a separate murder case that has yet to come to trial, Hernandez was charged last year in Boston with killing two men in 2012 after someone spilled a drink on him at a nightclub.
District Attorney Patrick Bomberg showed the jury before-and-after security video to connect Hernandez to Lloyd’s killing.
He played footage that he said showed Lloyd getting into a Nissan Altima rental car driven by Hernandez, then video from the NFL player’s home, taken shortly after Lloyd was killed, without Lloyd in the car.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two of his friends drove Lloyd to the industrial park and shot him. The two friends are awaiting trial.
The prosecutor also presented an image taken off Hernandez’s video surveillance system that showed Hernandez standing outside his basement, holding what Bomberg said was a gun.
He said a marijuana joint found near Lloyd’s body had Hernandez’s and Lloyd’s DNA. Hernandez’s DNA also was on a shell casing from a bullet found under the driver’s seat of the rental car, Bomberg said. He told jurors that the casing was fired by the same weapon as casings found at the crime scene: a .45-caliber Glock.
As the prosecutor showed jurors a photo of Lloyd’s body, his mother was overcome and had to leave the courtroom briefly.
Defense attorney Michael Fee told the jury that Hernandez is an innocent man “targeted” by authorities for his celebrity.
He said the evidence would show that Hernandez did not kill Lloyd and did not ask anyone to do so. He said authorities could offer no motive for the killing.
Noting that Hernandez had long-term football contract, a new house, a fiancée and a 7-month-old baby, the defense attorney said Hernandez “was planning a future, not a murder.”
Thursday’s first witness testimony included the account of Matthew Kent, who was a high school freshman when he found Lloyd’s body while jogging.
Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, sat behind him with Hernandez’s brother, DJ, who coaches college football in Iowa.