Moving closer to justice

Massachusetts court approaches Aaron Hernandez murder trial

By Kenneth Porter
Staff Writer

A Massachusetts court excused a large group of potential jurors on Friday, Jan 16, ahead of the impending murder trial of Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots tight end.

So far 324 prospective jurors have been dismissed out of a pool consisting of more than 1,000 individuals, reports the Associated Press. Jurors endured hours of one-on-one questioning from Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh and lawyers representing Hernandez in an attempt to make sure that none of the jurors held a “bias, hardship or other concern that would disqualify that person from hearing the case,” a legal process known as voir dire.

Of the jurors that were interviewed, 21 were kept in the pool and will advance to the next round of questioning, although none have been placed on the official panel of 12 jurors and six alternates that will hear the case. Questioning is set to continue on Tuesday, Jan 20.

Hernandez has plead “not guilty” to one count of first-degree murder and two counts of illegal weapons possession connected to the June 2013 shooting death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. He was arrested June 18, 2013 after Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial complex one mile from Hernandez’s North Attleboro home. Lloyd was involved in a romantic relationship with Hernandez’s fiancée’s sister at the time of his death.

Following his initial arrest, prosecutors announced that they suspected that Hernandez was directly involved in Lloyd’s death, claiming that he “orchestrated” the execution-style murder and participated in the action in some capacity, along with two compatriots: Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace Jr. Ortiz and Wallace were also indicted on murder charges and will be tried separately.

Hernandez has also been indicted in two completely separate shootings, occurring on July 16, 2012 and Feb 13, 2013, that left two men injured and two men, Boston residents Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, dead. Hernandez’s second trial, dealing with the 2012 shooting, is set to begin May 28.

If convicted of first-degree murder in any of the trials, Hernandez would spend the rest of his life in prison.

Aaron Hernandez is just one of several professional American athletes that have had serious run-ins with the law over the past several years.

On February 2013, Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice was arrested and charged with domestic assault for punching his then-fiancée Janae Palmer in an Atlantic City casino. Although criminal charges were later dropped, Rice’s multi-million dollar contract was terminated by the Ravens and he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL after video footage of the incident was made public last September.

Furthermore, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child for allegedly using a “switch,” or thin tree branch, to discipline his 4-year-old child. Peterson was sentenced to 80 days community service following a plea deal.

The NFL has pledged to reform its player conduct policy and its handling of breaches of said policy.

“We will get our house in order,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a press conference following the Ray Rice suspension. “I know this because we will make it happen,” he said. “Nothing is off the table. Let me say it again, we will implement new conduct policies.”

It is clear that major changes must be made to ensure that individuals such as Hernandez are not allowed to participate in the sport that millions of us love.

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