Jury Acquits ex-Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez, Will He Go free?

    Ex-Patriots football star Aaron Hernandez, who is currently serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, was acquitted Friday in a 2012 double slaying prosecutors happened over a spilled drink.

    The former New England Patriots tight end quietly sobbed while the jury was reading the verdict.  After the acquittal, Hernandez looked back at his fiancée and nodded somberly while his defense attorney Jose Baez gave him a hug.

    It tool 6 days of deliberations,  as the jury found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. He was found guilty of a single charge: unlawful possession of a gun. The judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison, separate from his existing life sentence.

    Photo Source: ESPN

    The District Attorney,  Daniel Conley, said the victims’ families were devastated by the verdicts as well as by the Baez’s (defense attorney) portrayal of the men as “gang bangers” and “drug dealers.”

    “These were two hardworking, humble, Cape Verdean immigrants,” Conley said. “It was unnecessary and it was wrong, and it shouldn’t have been done.”, according to coverage by ESPN,

    Conley stated that prosecutors and the families could at least take solace in the fact that Hernandez is  currently serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée. Prosecutors in the double-murder trial weren’t allowed to mention his conviction in Lloyd’s case, which may have helped him get acquitted in this case.

    “One of the victims’ relatives said, ‘At least he’s not walking out the door today,'” Conley said.

    But Jose Baez, one member of Hernandez’s defense team, told ESPN’s Ian O’Connor that he sees a path for the Lloyd conviction to be overturned.

    “I wish he’d called me (for the first trial),” said Baez, who was not in court Friday because of a back issue. “I think there are plenty of flaws in that (Lloyd) conviction. If they are exposed properly, he certainly can and should get a new trial.”

    Will he go free?  For now, he is still serving the life sentence from the previous case.  However, Baez is publicly stating that he may have a chance at the appeal or possibly a shot at a new trial altogether.

    The original defense team in the double-murder trial pointed the finger at Alexander Bradley, an admitted drug dealer and an ex close friend to Hernandez who was with him the night of the murders. The defense hammered at Bradley’s credibility, citing his immunity deal with prosecutors to testify against Hernandez, his role as the driver of the car the night of the shootings and his criminal record. Bradley is serving a five-year prison term in Connecticut for firing shots at a Hartford nightclub in 2014 in a separate incident.

    “Bradley testified that Hernandez became enraged after de Abreu bumped into him while dancing, spilling his drink at a Boston nightclub. He said Hernandez later opened fire on the men’s car as they waited at a stoplight” according to an ESPN report.

    At that point, Prosecutors charged Hernandez with shooting Bradley in the face months after the double slaying to try to silence him as a witness. Bradley lost his right eye; Hernandez was acquitted of witness intimidation.

    Defense attorney Ronald Sullivan Jr. said the jury was able to see through the “smoke and mirrors” that made up the state’s case. He described Hernandez as a “very good young man who happened to hang out with a very bad guy in Alexander Bradley.”

    Conley said Friday that prosecutors would not go after Bradley in the killings because they believe they already charged the right person in the first place.

    “Our theory of the case stands,” Conley said. “In our minds, [the evidence] points inescapably to Aaron Hernandez.”

    During the double murder trial, Prosecutors introduced evidence at trial that Hernandez got a tattoo that memorialized the double slaying. California tattoo artist David Nelson testified that Hernandez requested an image of a revolver with the gun barrel facing forward. Hernandez wanted five bullets visible in the cylinder of the gun and one cylinder empty, Nelson said.

    Hernandez, 27, grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. About six weeks after Furtado and de Abreu were killed, Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots and went on to play another season before Lloyd was killed. He was cut from the team shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd’s killing in June 2013. He was not charged in the 2012 killings until 2014.

    Baez, the attorney known for winning an acquittal for Florida mom Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter, told ESPN that “(Hernandez) is one step closer to being reunited with his family. He still has the appeal (of the Lloyd conviction), and those appeals can be overturned.”

    The Associated Press contributed to this report as well as www.ESPN.com

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