FALL RIVER, Mass. » The 18 New England residents sitting on the jury in the murder trial of former Patriots star Aaron Hernandez will be allowed to watch the home team play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, but the judge overseeing the case says they must leave the room if his name is mentioned.
Hernandez caught quarterback Tom Brady’s last Super Bowl touchdown pass in the Patriots’ 2012 loss to the New York Giants. Now he is on trial for murder, charged with the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancee’s sister.
The trial is playing out just as Hernandez’s old team is preparing to take on the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL championship game.
Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh closed the second day of testimony Friday by telling jurors they may watch the game if it is important to them, but they must be vigilant for mention of the case or Hernandez.
"You hear that word, you’ve got to walk out of the room," Garsh said. "Distance yourself."
The judge previously told jurors that they are not allowed to discuss the case with anyone, even to tell their families or employers that they are sitting on the jury for Hernandez. During jury selection, jurors were asked if they were Patriots fans, but that did not mean they were automatically disqualified from being selected.
Hernandez had a $40 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested.
Earlier Friday, Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, was overcome with emotion and had to leave the courtroom as a prosecutor showed graphic photos of her son’s body at the industrial park where he was found. The 27-year-old Lloyd was shown lying on his back with his left fist curled in a ball over the gunshot wounds to his chest.
It was the second straight day she left the courtroom in tears.
Lloyd’s body was found riddled with bullets in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home, not far from Gillette Stadium.
On Friday, two men who worked at a business in the industrial park described a teenage jogger coming to their office early on the evening of June 17, 2013, then leading them down to an empty lot.
One of the men, David Swithers, said he stopped about 20 feet away and saw a man on his back. The judge had cautioned jurors that the images would be graphic and that they shouldn’t let their emotions sway them in the case.
"He was stiff and motionless. There were flies flying in and out of his nostrils," he said. "I called 911."
Also testifying Friday was Shaneah Jenkins, 23, who was dating Lloyd. Her sister, Shayanna, 25, is Hernandez’s fiancee and the mother of his 2-year-old child. The sisters sit on opposite sides of the courtroom, Shaneah with Lloyd’s mother and Shayanna with Hernandez’s family. Shayanna Jenkins was not in court Friday.
Shaneah Jenkins testified that she introduced Lloyd to Hernandez and that although they had a cordial relationship, they were not close. She said the two men would hang out in the basement or smoke marijuana together when they came to visit, but that, apart from the weekend Lloyd was killed, the two men did not spend time together without her there.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Fee, told jurors in his opening statement that Hernandez and Lloyd were friends and that Hernandez had no reason to kill him. He said they could have some day been brothers-in-law.
Shaneah Jenkins is expected to resume testimony the next day court is in session. That could be Monday, though the judge told jurors a snowstorm forecast for then could delay that.
In a separate murder case that has yet to go to trial, Hernandez was charged last year in Boston with killing two men in 2012 after someone spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. The judge has ruled that prosecutors in the Lloyd case cannot tell the jury about those slayings.