Aaron Hernandez won a BCS national championship. He was a first-team All-American. He played in a Super Bowl.
And now he’ll spend the rest of his life in jail.
The 25-year-old was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd Wednesday, this following 35 hours of deliberation by the jury. While some felt the long deliberation was a sign Hernandez would be found innocent, Michael McCann thought otherwise.
“I didn’t think that he had a good shot of being found not guilty,” the Sports Illustrated legal analyst told Damon Amendolara, who was filling in as co-host of CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I think the more likely outcome would have been a hung jury if the jury couldn’t agree on what was the right punishment. Maybe some jurors felt that he was not guilty. Maybe some felt second degree or first degree – and usually when a jury deliberates as long as this one did, it suggests that there was some type of disagreement among the jurors about what might be the right penalty. My guess is that they probably debated first- versus second-degree murder and ultimately picked first degree. But although it was first degree, I don’t know if it was a slam-dunk first-degree conviction because if that had been the case, I don’t think it would have taken as long as it did.”
Hernandez might have been found innocent had one key thing not gotten in the way: the facts.
“I think there were several key factors,” McCann said. “One is just the overwhelming evidence of Hernandez’s guilt following the murder. There was the suspicious activities with the co-defendants. There was the fact that he directed his fiancee to give money to one of the co-defendants, that he directed his fiancee to remove a suspicious box. There was evidence of another gun found at the crime scene – not the murder weapon, but another gun that traced back to Hernandez. There was the fact that Hernandez lied to Robert Kraft about his whereabouts. There were a lot of suspicious things.”
Including text messages Hernandez sent to Lloyd before Lloyd’s death.
“Although they didn’t say, ‘Come out with me, I’m going to murder you,’ they signified a plan to bring Lloyd out – and they ultimately did that,” McCann said. “They took him out, and one of the three men killed Odin Lloyd – and in Massachusetts, you don’t have to prove who was the shooter. So the fact that Hernandez wasn’t necessarily found to be the shooter – and the jurors in their post-verdict press conference didn’t say he was the shooter. They instead found him guilty on the theory of joint venture, that he was part of a conspiracy to kill Odin Lloyd. In Massachusetts, that’s enough to get a conviction.”
Many people were shocked that the defense admitted Hernandez was at the scene of the crime, but in retrospect, that morsel wasn’t all that surprising.
“I understood why they did it,” McCann said. “Even if they hadn’t admitted he was at the crime scene, it would have been really hard for the jury to believe that he wasn’t. There was DNA evidence of him there, both in terms of footwear impressions and also DNA of Hernandez through a marijuana blunt found at the crime scene. There was also just the implausibility. Why would there be surveillance video of Hernandez with Odin Lloyd driving seemingly to the industrial park and then leaving without Lloyd? How could he have not been there? So I don’t know if it was as significant as it seems, but one of the jurors in the press conference said they found it shocking about the admission. But my gut is that I don’t think that played a huge role just because it would have been hard to reason that he wasn’t there.”