I’m not at the Hernandez trial so what I write about it is from what I pick up from reading the hearsay sources. I’ve wondered what defense Aaron Hernandez’s would put forward to the jury. If the reports are true his lawyers after receiving all the government’s evidence have come up with a pretty dumb defense.
Reading about his lawyer’s opening statement to the jury convinced me that Aaron can kiss his freedom goodbye. His lawyers told the jury: “Aaron never had a chance. They locked on Aaron and they targeted him.’ But it is really stupid in a case where had the police done otherwise than focus on Hernandez they would have committed malpractice. Defense lawyers want the jury to believe that was done because Hernandez was a big star football player for the Patriots; but in the land of the Patriots where they are worshiped that would be one of the reasons they would have bent over backwards to help him out had they been able to do it.
By using the word “targeting” they wanted to imply some wrongfulness on the cops behalf. The defense lawyers big, big mistake was not recognizing that the cops had no other choice than to focus on Hernandez. They should have praised the cops for focusing on him and suggested it was natural that they do this. Then they could spin the story that despite their best efforts the evidence doesn’t point to his participation in the murder.
The idea that out of the blue these cops implicated Hernandez in a murder plot may fit with the usual way a defense plans it strategy but here it is totally inconsistent with the facts. No juror will accept the idea Hernandez was targeted by evil or incompetent cops hoping to diminish the glow on the Patriots or impede their chances for greater glory.
The defense should have recognized that the facts the cops faced in the beginning gave them no choice but to focus on Hernandez. I assume the first thing they did after identifying Odin Llyod as the victim was reach out to his family to find out what they knew about his whereabouts prior to that time. Here’s one thing that they would have learned. “Hernandez . . . picked up Lloyd from his Dorchester home at 2:33 a.m. in a rented Nissan Altima.” They would also have learned that Llyod and Hernandez were friends.
Put yourself in a cop’s shoes: a kid jogging home from the gym in the early afternoon finds a guy dead. After identifying him, you learn he was picked up by a friend earlier that morning and checking on the friend you find out he lives about a mile away from where the body is found. Who do you focus on? As you see suggesting it was wrong to “target” Hernandez is a non starter. There is nothing to gain from a defense of police animosity or bumbling or whatever since they had no choice but to look at Hernandez.
Perhaps you’ll say the defense has no other choice than to do this because otherwise Hernandez is fried. That may be true but it reminds me of Voltaire’s statement on his death-bed to the priest who asked him if he renounced the Devil. He said: “Father, now is not the time to make new enemies.” In other words why go after the cops when you can have the same defense by saying they are good guys but mistaken. There are some jurors who will be turned off by attacks on cops who did what they should have done.
That’s a bad mistake by defense counsel but there is even a worse one. It is that defense counsel seems to be suggesting Hernandez and Llyod were good friends so there is no way he would have done anything to harm him. That’s going nowhere. A better approach would be to suggest Hernandez had become angry at Llyod for something or other, they had an argument, Hernandez wanted to straighten it out, he brought the other guys Ernest Wallace or Carlos Ortiz with him to help resolve the matter, and then one of them flew off the handle and killed Llyod.
To pull that off Hernandez would have to testify. It’s clear he isn’t going to take the stand. But putting the gun in another’s hand in the spur of the moment or something like it seems to be Hernandez’s only hope.
The evidence in the case that Hernandez has to weave his tale of innocence into is that he was at the secluded spot in North Attleboro with Llyod at the time he was murdered. Defense counsel did not deny this; the prosecutor’s evidence seems to force that conclusion. His problem is that after Llyod is murdered he lets him lie where he fell and does nothing. If you’re such a good friend then you don’t do that.
Defense counsel’s suggestion they were friends will fall on deaf ears and might be so noxious to the jurors that it alone may lead to his conviction. You don’t leave your friend’s body with five bullet holes in it unless you had something to do with the murder. Or, unless you were angry at the friend and his death did not bother you.
I said earlier that was Hernandez’s only chance. There is one other. The judge could direct the jury to return a verdict of not guilty on his behalf. She could say the evidence did not show beyond a reasonable doubt Hernandez “knowingly participated” in the murder.
I’ve written how she has kept out of evidence the crucial text’s that were sent by Odin Llyod to his sister just minutes before his murder. He texted: “U see who I’m with?” and “NFL, just so you know.” It could be argued those sent in the early morning hours showed the victim’s fear. Having those the prosecutor could have easily countered Hernandez’s lawyers “no motive” argument. By the way, in a murder case you don’t have to prove motive.
It seems Aaron’s cause is lost because his defense lawyers have bumbled and stumbled into the wrong strategy. They didn’t think outside the box but went with the usual. His only hope is the judge who has been good to him so far.