Yes, the rule is "innocent until proven guilty," but based on the evidence laid out so far in Aaron Hernandez's murder investigation (and the second murder he might be involved in), the situation does not look good for him.
To begin with, there's the video. Lots and lots of video. During yesterday's arraignment of the former New England Patriots star tight end, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley described how Hernandez was captured on numerous surveillance videos; in Boston, at his North Attleborough house, and even entering the crime scene. Using those various videos, they've been able to reconstruct almost all of his movements on the night of the murder, pinpointing his location to the minute. Some of the cameras that captured him are even ones that he knew about (or should have known about), which makes some of his actions even more bizarre. Like openly carrying a gun that would later disappear. As one former police officer told The Boston Globe, "The abundance of video surveillance footage of this defendant carrying a firearm is potentially something that is going to be very difficult for defense counsel to overcome at trial."
Next come the text messages, both from Hernandez and the victim, that tie the men together at the time of the murder. On Sunday evening, June 16, Hernandez texted two friends in Connecticut and told them to come to his house quickly. (They were also caught on camera when they arrived.) Minutes later, he set up a meeting with Odin Lloyd. Then there's the witness. Lloyd's sister saw her brother get into Hernandez's car when he was picked up. Later, sensing trouble, Lloyd texted his sister, saying "Did you see who I was with?" Then: "NFL. Just so you know." That text was sent within minutes of Lloyd's estimated time of death.
Hernandez's car was seen entering the industrial park where the murder took place. He was seen returning home shortly after, without Lloyd, and with his gun. The district attorney discussed Hernandez's motive — he was mad at Lloyd for talking to people that Hernandez had a previous run-in with — suggesting that other witnesses are cooperating. (A second "fugitive" was arrested today who may be one of his Connecticut friends and could shed more light on the case as well.)
There's the shell casing — the same caliber as the gun used to kill Lloyd — that was left in Hernandez's rental car. Then, a second matching casing, found in a trash bin near the murder.
Finally, there's the gum. Hernandez bought a pack of blue Bubblicious chewing gum on the night of the murder. He offered some to the rental agent when he returned the car. And there was a chewed piece found in the car and in the same trash bin with the shell casing. They didn't mention it in court, but it's possible that they may have even obtained DNA evidence from the gum.
So that's opportunity and motive, plus visual and physical evidence tying Hernandez to both the victim and the crime. Plus, he also lied to police and tried to destroy evidence. If you're a DA trying to put someone away for murder, you could not ask for much more than that, nor a less sympathetic defendant. Not only did Hernandez make almost no attempt to cover his tracks, he left more evidence than you would normally find in a such calculated crime. Prosecutors described it as an "execution," and the defense will have a tough hill to climb to prove otherwise.
And that's before you get into the other allegations (possibly inadmissible in court, but not in the media) that have been leveled against the player. A former friend and drug dealer claims Hernandez shot him in the face in February. Hernandez was questioned (but not accused) in a 2007 shooting in Gainesville, when he was attending the University of Florida. He was involved in another gun-related incident, just last month in Providence. (Again, he wasn't charged because it couldn't be proven that it was his gun.) Then there's this unfortunate photo he took of himself, brandishing a gun, which has turned into an even more unfortunate meme.
Finally, there are reports today that Hernandez was being looked at in connection to another double-homicide in Boston from last year. (One theory is that Lloyd's knowledge of Hernandez's involvement in that case led to his murder. Hernandez was caught on tape saying, "You can't trust anyone anymore.") So add that disturbing pattern into the mix and the case, for now at least, looks pretty rock-solid. Another local attorney told the Globe that "I think any prosecutor would have a level of confidence in a conviction." We have no idea what Hernandez was thinking.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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