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Jury begins deliberations in murder trial of ex-New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez

04/07/2015 10:24 EDT | Updated 06/07/2015 05:59 EDT
FALL RIVER, Mass. - Jurors began deliberating Tuesday in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez after his lawyer acknowledged for the first time that his client was at the scene of the killing and saw it happen but described him as a kid who simply did not know what to do.

The defence urged jurors to find Hernandez not guilty of murder.

"Did he make all the right decisions? No," lawyer James Sultan said during his closing arguments. "He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed something, a shocking killing, committed by someone he knew. He didn't know what to do, so he just put one foot in front of the other."

Hernandez is charged in the June 17, 2013, death of Odin Lloyd, 27, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. Lloyd was shot six times and died in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez's home. At the time, the star tight end had a $40 million contract with the Patriots.

Sultan pinned the killing on Hernandez's co-defendants, his friends Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz. Both men have pleaded not guilty and will be tried later.

But Assistant District Attorney William McCauley told jurors the evidence showed that Hernandez was the gunman, that he had a plan to kill Lloyd and that he drove Lloyd to his death in a deserted place in an undeveloped part of the industrial park.

"Ask yourself what was the purpose in driving to that spot at that time?" McCauley asked. "He was driving. He's the one who veered off the course to go down. There was no other purpose to go down there."

He said Hernandez's behaviour after the crime also showed that he was involved. He cited evidence that Hernandez had rented a car for Wallace and directed his fiancee to give the two men $500 to flee, as well as surveillance video from inside Hernandez's home that showed him hanging out with them a few hours after Lloyd was killed — even trusting Wallace enough to let him hold his 8-month-old daughter.

"He's laying around the pool, soaking up the sun, drinking up smoothies with his two confederates," McCauley told jurors.

The trial featured hundreds of pieces of evidence and testimony from 135 witnesses — 132 of them called by the prosecution.

In addition to the murder charge, the jury will decide Hernandez's guilt or innocence on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition. Jurors deliberated for a little more than an hour on Tuesday afternoon before being sent home for the day. They are scheduled to begin their work again at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Sultan spent several minutes of his closing argument asking jurors to forget what they have heard about Hernandez in the media and outside the courtroom. Hernandez also faces murder charges in Boston, where he is accused of gunning two men down in 2012 after he believed they disrespected him at a nightclub. Evidence about that killing was not allowed into the Lloyd trial.

He pointed out that prosecutors never presented a clear motive for why Hernandez would kill Lloyd, saying they were friends and future brothers-in-law and that there was no evidence he would have wanted Lloyd dead.

"You didn't hear because it doesn't exist," Sultan said. "Does the prosecution expect you to fill in that gaping hole in its case with guesswork, speculation?"

Prosecutors have said Hernandez appeared angry at Lloyd while they were at a nightclub two nights before the killing, and he left the club to retrieve a gun from his car. But they never gave an explanation to jurors for why he may have been angry.

Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh told jurors that prosecutors are not required to prove a motive.

Sultan also said investigators unfairly fixated on his client, presuming his guilt and finding what they could to support that theory.

"The investigation done in this case was incomplete, biased and inept. That was not fair to Odin Lloyd, that was not fair to Aaron Hernandez, and it was not fair to you," he said. "All that effort and this is all they could come up with. What does that tell you?"

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