By Daniel Lovering
FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) – Jurors in former NFL star Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial completed their first full day of deliberations at a Massachusetts court on Wednesday without reaching a verdict, a day after the defense argued that Hernandez was only a witness to the fatal shooting that prosecutors say he orchestrated.
Hernandez, 25, is charged with murder and firearms violations in the killing of Odin Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player who had been dating his fiancee’s sister. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, picked up Lloyd at his Boston home before dawn on June 17, 2013, and drove him to an industrial park near Hernandez’s house in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, where they shot him dead.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said the former tight end had become angry at Lloyd two nights earlier at a Boston night club, and that he “controlled every aspect of that trip” the night of the murder.
But defense attorney James Sultan portrayed Hernandez as a hapless “23-year-old kid” who witnessed “a shocking killing committed by somebody he knew.”
Wallace and Ortiz have also been charged with murder and will be tried separately. They have pleaded not guilty.
The defense team sought to shift blame onto the pair by suggesting they were using the drug PCP, which one witness said could lead to violent, unpredictable behavior.
On Wednesday, the judge answered questions from the jury about the firearms charges and ruled they could see records of text messages Lloyd exchanged with his sister before he was killed, but not their contents.
Lloyd, 27, was shot six times with a .45-caliber Glock pistol that has not been found, according to investigators.
During the trial, which began in late January, the prosecution called more than 130 witnesses and the defense called three.
Hernandez faces a charge of murder and two firearms-related violations. If convicted of first-degree murder, Hernandez would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A second-degree murder conviction would lead to a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 15 years.
The jury of seven women and five men, which has been given the 439 pieces of evidence in the case, is expected to resume deliberations on Thursday morning.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Ted Botha)