For nine long weeks, the prosecution made its case in the murder trial of Aaron Hernandez. His defense, meanwhile, is expected to take just one day. That discrepancy should by no means indicate that the defense lawyers have given up. In fact, as the trial nears its end, much of the media’s coverage is suggesting that Hernandez has a good chance of beating the first-degree murder charge.
Hernandez looked like he’d left a trail of breadcrumbs—or Bubblicious wrappers—for prosecutors. But a trial is very different from a criminal complaint, and prosecutors have faced two main issues: 1) They haven’t established a clear motive for why Hernandez would kill Odin Lloyd, and 2) they have no direct evidence, either a murder weapon, video of the murder, or testimony from Hernandez’s associates. Instead, their case relies on circumstantial evidence, like video footage showing Hernandez with Lloyd near the time of the murder, and suspicious activity from Hernandez before and afterward.
Thus, Monday, the tone of coverage suggested Hernandez might have a strong chance going into jury deliberations, even with just one day of witnesses called by his own lawyers. The Boston Herald‘s wrap-up featuring just one interview with a legal analyst seemed to be preparing readers for a possible not-guilty verdict. Sports Illustrated legal analyst Michael McCann wrote a comprehensive, essential summary of the trial and the challenges prosecutors faced. They’re challenges that have existed since the trial started, and throughout, there have been analyses that suggested the prosecution’s case was short of a slam dunk. Across the board, media coverage painted the jury’s decision as anything other than a foregone conclusion—in stark contrast to the other high-profile Massachusetts trial wrapping up this week.
Of course, plenty of people are convicted of murder based on circumstantial evidence. The jury could also rule Hernandez guilty of second-degree murder, and he faces a slew of other less serious charges, too. Or they could let him go. But don’t forget, Hernandez has been charged with two other murders since going to prison, so even if he gets off, he won’t be done with the justice system. And of course his career with the Patriots is finished. Guilty verdict or not, Hernandez’s year has not come without consequences. All that remains to be decided is whether those consequences include life in prison without possibility for parole.
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