Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez’s trial is entering another week in a courtroom outside Boston. And it’s starting to resemble O.J. Simpson’s mid 1990’s trial in some respects. There are no eyewitnesses in the murder of Odin Lloyd and the case rests completely on circumstantial evidence. The circumstantial evidence in the 6 month long trial of O.J. Simpson consisted in part of a size 12 Bruno Magli shoe print at the scene, matching gloves that did not fit, a notorious Bronco car flight presumably showing guilt, motive of jealousy of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and a visit to the home of O.J. Simpson. All of that added up to a not guilty verdict by the jury. The prosecutors in the Hernandez trial will link some closer ties to the murder location than in the O.J. case. Whether it will be enough for a conviction is the question to be answered by the jury.
The Hernandez jury last week made a site visit to Hernandez’s home. Jurors in the O.J. Simpson trial also made a visit to his home. I never understand why prosecutors or defense agree for jurors to visit the home of the defendant when the murder did not place there. And in sports celebrities’ homes, there is not much to be gained other than a jury being star struck by visiting the home. A judge will allow the visit if there is anything to be gleamed from the visit. The only relevant aspect in the Hernandez case is how close the house was to the murder location. During the visit to the scene of O.J. Simpson’s house, the jury saw items that were not in the house at the time of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson. And prosecutors in the Hernandez case, taking a page out of the O.J. Simpson trial, argued against NFL memorabilia and religious items that were placed in the Hernandez home at some time after the murder. And the defense agreed to remove those items which could have subtlety influenced the jury.
A shoe print matching the size of the defendants’ shoes found at the scene appears in both cases. A print matching the size of Hernandez’s Air Jordan shoes was found at the murder scene. And shoe prints matching O.J.’s size 12 Bruno Magli shoes were found at the scene of the murders alleged to have been committed by him. And like the O.J. trial, the defense in the Hernandez trial is attempting to prove that the police bungled the scene and the shoe prints found at the scene. This will be pivotal to the defense since unlike the O.J. Simpson case, Hernandez was seen with the victim, Odin Lloyd, minutes before the murder that took place at an industrial park. The park is less than one mile from Hernandez’s home. And cell phone tracing evidence, if offered into evidence, puts Hernandez’s phone close to the scene at the time of the murder. But a gun linking Hernandez to the crime was never found.
In the O.J. Simpson case the motive of jealousy was a strong one. Although motive is never an element in any criminal trial, most jurors and non-lawyers want to know the potential motive for a crime. In reality, there is no valid motive for killing someone. In the Hernandez trial, the motive appears quite weak. The prosecution is attempting to prove that Hernandez was angry at a night club with the victim. And that anger led to the planning and killing his friend in an execution style murder. Without more, the motive does not seem to add up as the reason for why Odin Lloyd would be killed. Again, no reason justifies a murder. Speculation on the part of the police is that Odin Lloyd knew about 2012 alleged murders committed by Hernandez. However, any information about the other alleged murders will not be admissible. Hernandez was indicted on 2 murders stemming from a 2012 incident.
In the Hernandez trial, prosecutors may have more to go on than the O.J. Simpson prosecutors. Hernandez’s DNA is found on a marijuana joint at the murder scene. The victim and Hernandez appearing together in moments before the murder may be a high mountain for the defense to break down. But whether it proves murder is up to the jury. Juries generally dislike circumstantial murder cases and even more so in high publicity trials. In the end, all of the evidence is still circumstantial and the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez murdered Lloyd. And some jurors may still want to know why someone with a $40 million NFL contract, a fiancé and a 7 month old baby would kill a friend. According to some, Hernandez had everything to live for and no reason to kill anyone. Any sympathetic jurors may also wonder if Hernandez was targeted by the police and if the real killer is still free. And yet, others may wonder if Hernandez was set up. And the prosecution must still prove that Hernandez committed the murder—or shot the gun. No gun and a weak motive for murder remain problematic for the prosecution.