Jury selection was set to begin in the murder trial of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez, accused of killing a man in June 2013, when Hernandez had a $40 million contract as a tight end with the New England Patriots.
Hernandez, 25, is accused of killing Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semiprofessional football player from Boston who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée. Prosecutors say Hernandez and two other men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston's Dorchester section and took him to an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, where he was shot to death.
Prosecutors haven't said who pulled the trigger, but said Hernandez orchestrated the killing. Ortiz and Wallace have pleaded not guilty to murder charges and will be tried separately. The murder weapon, which investigators believe was a .45-caliber Glock, has never been found.
More than 1,000 potential jurors are expected to report to Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River on Friday, Monday and Tuesday for the first phase of jury selection, filling out written questionnaires. Later next week, Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh will conduct individual questioning of jurors. Eighteen jurors will be selected. The entire process is expected to last at least through next week, and it could take longer.
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 are Hernandez's fiancée, 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 allegedly told her to get rid of. She had been granted immunity before her grand jury testimony.
This week, prosecutors petitioned the judge to grant Jenkins immunity, which would give them the ability to compel her to testify. It was not yet clear whether the judge had granted the petition.
The judge granted a petition for immunity for Hernandez's cousin, Jennifer Mercado. Mercado has not been charged in the case, and it was not clear what testimony she could offer if called.
Mercado's sister, Tanya Singleton, is also on the witness list. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal contempt for failing to testify before the grand jury and was sentenced to two years' probation. Singleton has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact.
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 Hernandez at a nightclub. The trial date has not yet been set.
A list of who's who in the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez:
The 25-year-old was a star player with the Patriots with a $40 million contract when, prosecutors say, he killed Odin Lloyd.Hernandez has pleaded not guilty. He has also pleaded not guilty to murder charges stemming from a 2012 double slaying in Boston, where he is accused of killing two men after someone accidentally spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. No trial date is set in the Boston case, and prosecutors in the Lloyd case will not be allowed to tell the jury about the double slaying.
Lloyd, 27, was a semipro football player for the Boston Bandits and was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins. He was found shot to death June 17, 2013, in an industrial park near Hernandez's home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Investigators believe he was killed with a .45-caliber Glock, which has never been found.
ERNEST WALLACE and CARLOS ORTIZ
Both have pleaded not guilty to murder. They hail from Hernandez's hometown of Bristol, Connecticut. Prosecutors say they andHernandez picked up Lloyd shortly before he was killed. They are not listed as witnesses by the prosecution but could be called by the defense. They will be tried separately.
Jenkins, Hernandez's fiancee, is charged with perjury and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors have said she lied dozens of times to a grand jury investigating Lloyd's killing. Jenkins is listed on the prosecution's list of potential witnesses, and this week, prosecutors petitioned the court to grant her immunity for the murder trial. The matter was sealed, and the outcome of the request was not clear. Jenkins and Hernandez have a 2-year-old daughter together.
Singleton, Hernandez's cousin, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact. Singleton, of Bristol, pleaded guilty last year to criminal contempt for failing to testify before the grand jury, and she was given probation. A judge spared her prison time because she's being treated for advanced cancer.
Mercado, Hernandez's cousin, lives with her sister, Singleton, in Bristol. Mercado is listed as a potential witness for the prosecution. She was granted immunity by a judge this week following a petition by prosecutors, which means she could be compelled to testify. It was not clear what testimony she could offer.
ROBERT KRAFT and BILL BELICHICK
New England Patriots owner and coach. Both are listed as a potential witness for the prosecution. It's not yet known whether either will be called.
MIKE POUNCEY and BRANDON SPIKES
Pouncey, a center for the Miami Dolphins, and Spikes, a Buffalo Bills linebacker this past season, are also listed as potential witnesses for the prosecution. The two played football with Hernandez at the University of Florida. Spikes also played withHernandez on the Patriots.
BRISTOL COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE SUSAN GARSH
Garsh has been a judge for more than 20 years after being appointed to the bench in 1993 by Republican Gov. Bill Weld. Prosecutors had asked Garsh to step aside from the case because they said she had an antagonistic relationship with prosecutor William McCauley. Garsh declined.
James Sultan and Charles Rankin lead the firm Rankin and Sultan and are highly respected criminal defense lawyers. Michael Fee, a former federal prosecutor, is a well-known defense attorney mostly focusing on white-collar crime and business matters.
Assistant District Attorneys William McCauley, Patrick Bomberg and Roger Michel are the lead prosecutors on the case.