FALL RIVER, Mass. - A full jury was seated Monday for the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, and the judge pushed back opening statements until at least Thursday because of a blizzard bearing down on the region.
"We have a jury," Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh announced to the courtroom after more than 30 potential jurors were struck from the pool, leaving 13 women and five men on the panel.
Six of the 18 jurors will be randomly selected as alternates just before deliberations start.
Hernandez, 25, is charged with killing semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd, 27, in June 2013. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. His bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park in North Attleborough, not far from Hernandez's home. He has pleaded not guilty.
Hernandez had a $40 million contract as a tight end with the Patriots at the time of the killing. His old team plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
A handful of potential jurors were struck for cause Monday morning, though it was not clear why. Garsh has conducted most of the jury selection in an open courtroom but outside the hearing of the public. The other jurors were removed by either the prosecution or defence, which were each allowed up to 18 challenges without having to give a reason.
After jurors were seated, Garsh instructed them that they were not allowed to read, watch or listen to anything about the case or Hernandez and not to discuss it with anyone. While they may tell their family and employers they are serving on a jury, they are not allowed to tell them they are on the Hernandez jury, Garsh said. The case is expected to last six to 10 weeks.
After sending jurors home Monday morning, Garsh continued to screen additional potential jurors in case one of the 18 seated is unable to serve. More than 1,000 people were in the jury pool when jury selection began more than two weeks ago.
The judge also ordered that people attending court couldn't co-ordinate to dress in the same colour. Four members of Lloyd's family came to court Monday wearing purple. Garsh, who previously banned Patriots and other sports logos from the courthouse during the length of the trial, said it was distracting and she would not allow it.
Garsh initially planned for opening statements to be held Tuesday but moved them to Thursday because of the blizzard, which is forecast to dump up to 2 feet of snow or more in Fall River. She said opening statements could be pushed back even further depending on the aftereffects of the storm.