Prosecutors won't be permitted to cover up a trophy case in Aaron Hernandez's home when jurors visit it during the former New England Patriots star's murder trial, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Assistant District Attorney William McCauley had sought to have the case hidden, saying the defense wanted "to get the benefit of having the jury be impressed by trophies or medals."
Prosecutors also cited the O.J. Simpson murder trial in arguing that they wanted to avoid what they called "strategic manipulation" of the home. In the Simpson case, photographs and pictures were placed in the home to portray the defendant as a family man, and a Bible was placed on a table to play to jurors' religious sympathies, prosecutors said in a court filing.
Hernandez's lawyer, James Sultan, argued that the house should be shown to the jurors exactly the way it was at the time of Odin Lloyd's death.
"The fact the Mr. Hernandez played for the Patriots, that's in the case," Sultan said. "The trial is about the truth. This is the truth of his house."
Fall River Superior Court Justice Susan Garsh agreed with the defense, saying the trophy case would remain uncovered.
Jury selection is set to begin Friday for Hernandez, who has pleaded not guilty to killing Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player. Hernandez was a tight end for the Patriots with a $40 million contract when prosecutors say he killed Lloyd in an industrial park near his North Attleborough home in June 2013. Lloyd, 27, was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.
Hernandez also has pleaded not guilty in the fatal shootings of two men in 2012 after an encounter at a Boston nightclub. That case has not yet gone to trial.
On Tuesday, Garsh also allowed Jenkins and Hernandez's mother to attend the trial, even though they may be called as witnesses. She also allowed others close to Lloyd to attend, including his mother, his sister and Shaneah Jenkins, Shayanna's sister and Lloyd's girlfriend.
Shayanna Jenkins is accused of lying to a grand jury investigating the case and has pleaded not guilty to perjury.
A hearing is set for Wednesday about two petitions by prosecutors to grant immunity to Shayanna Jenkins and one other witness, said Mark Ferriera, an assistant court clerk. Neither he nor Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, would say who the other witness was, citing rules that close courtrooms for such petitions.
Shayanna Jenkins' lawyer, Janice Bassil, did not return an email sent Monday seeking more information about the hearing. Jenkins and Hernandez have a child together.
The judge indicated there may be another hearing Thursday before jury selection begins.
The trial is expected to last six to 10 weeks, and dozens of witnesses could be called, including Patriots coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft.
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