BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Opening statements began late Wednesday morning in the double murder trial Aaron Hernandez with a prosecutor telling jurors the former NFL star killed two men in 2012 because he felt they disrespected him.
The defense, meanwhile, argued that the killings happened over not a spilled drink, but a drug deal–and that it was a friend of Hernandez, Alexander Bradley, who killed the men.READ MORE: NH Man Accused Of Threatening To Assassinate Sen. Maggie Hassan
The former New England Patriots tight end is charged in the 2012 fatal shootings of two men he encountered at a Boston nightclub—Daniel de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28. He has pleaded not guilty.
Abreu and Furtado were close friends who attended high school and served in the military together in Cape Verde before coming to the United States and settling in Boston.
Prosecutor Patrick Haggan described how “two worlds collided” that night outside the Cure Lounge on Tremont Street in the Theater District in July 2012.
The court was packed Wednesday with relatives of the victims, as well as those of Hernandez–including his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins.
At one point in the proceedings, Hernandez looked at Jenkins and mouthed “I love you.
Prosecutors in the double murder case have said that in the months before the killings, Hernandez had become increasingly convinced that people had been “testing, trying or otherwise disrespecting him” when he went to area nightclubs.
“Ladies and gentlemen, what started as an interaction which was a simple bump, a spilled drink, and an exchange of looks thereafter, ended hours later in what the evidence will show was a cold-blooded, senseless, and deadly act of violence,” Haggan told the jury.
Haggan said Hernandez waited for the club to let out, then pulled up alongside Abreu and Furtado.
“The defendant fired that gun 5 times–bang bang bang bang bang,” Haggan said.READ MORE: NH Amber Alert Prompted By 'Sophisticated Phone Scam,' Manchester Police Believe
In the defense’s opening statements, attorney Jose Baez challenged the credibility of Bradley, the former friend who was with Hernandez the night the men were shot and is expected to be the prosecution’s star witness.
Prosecutors say Hernandez shot in the face in Florida in 2013 when he brought up the 2012 murders of Abreu and Furtado.
Baez said Bradley dealt marijuana to Hernandez, and that Bradley liked to party with him. He said that marijuana use was “commonplace” among NFL players, and that the drug “makes them heal faster for the next game.”
The defense attorney added that Bradley liked to party with Patriots star Rob Gronkowski and former linebacker Brandon Spikes, who went to Florida along with Hernandez.
Baez said there were no witnesses to the spilled drink confrontation alleged by the prosecution.
“Not only do you have zero witnesses, you have zero probability for this happening,” Baez told jurors.
At one point, Baez asked Hernandez to stand up next to him to show the jury that, in his opinion, Hernandez would not need a gun to intimidate people because of his size.
Baez said police rushed the investigation into Hernandez because they had “a former Patriot…a notch on your belt.”
He added that Abreu and Furtado’s bodies were “desecrated” by police when they were left under a sheet in their car as it was towed–and said a street sweeper was allowed to pass down the street, disturbing the integrity of the crime scene.
This trial marks the second time Hernandez will hear a prosecutor ask a jury to convict him of first-degree murder. He is already serving a life sentence after being convicted in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
The murder of Odin Lloyd cannot be mentioned during the proceedings of this trial.
Hernandez, now 27, grew up in Connecticut and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012. The team released him in June 2013, shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd’s killing.
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