FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — Opening statements in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez began Thursday after a brief delay over jury issues.
Hernandez is charged with killing semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd, 27, in June 2013. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. His bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park in North Attleborough, not far from Hernandez’s home.
Hernandez had a $40 million contract as a tight end with the Patriots at the time of the killing. His old team plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
Opening statements were delayed briefly after one juror was late getting to court, and another juror sent a note to the judge. Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh individually questioned jurors before swearing them in.
Garsh instructed jurors not to talk to anyone about the case or share details of the trial with anyone.
“Ultimately, you must determine whether or not the commonwealth has proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt,” Garsh said. “Keep an open mind. Don’t make up your minds as it is going along.”
Hernandez has denied the charges.
In court Thursday, Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, sat next to Hernandez’s brother DJ. Her sister, Shaneah, sat with Lloyd’s family.
Prosecutors have listed Jenkins as a possible witness and this month petitioned the court to grant immunity to her. That could compel her to testify. The court has not said whether it was granted. Thursday was the first day since the petition was heard that Jenkins appeared in the courtroom.
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.
Prosecutors have not said who pulled the trigger but said Hernandez orchestrated the killing. Ortiz and Wallace have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.
Prosecutors have said Hernandez may have showed Lloyd the spot where a 2012 double homicide took place in Boston; Hernandez has since been charged with two counts of murder in that case. Prosecutors suggested Lloyd’s knowledge of the 2012 killings was a possible motive in his slaying. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to those killings, too.
The judge has ruled that prosecutors will not be allowed to tell the jury about the 2012 Boston killings.
Six of the 18 jurors will be randomly selected as alternates immediately before deliberations begin.