Bill Belichick was sought as defense witness in Aaron Hernandez trial

Lawyers for Aaron Hernandez tried unsuccessfully to get New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick to testify in the double murder trial of his former player, the defense confirmed Thursday.

Jose Baez, an attorney for Hernandez, told Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke that the defense served Belichick with a subpoena as the high-profile case drew to a close but made a “strategic decision” to release the coach from his obligation to testify after they had trouble reaching him.

“We didn’t think his testimony was critical,” Baez said.

Locke said an Ohio-based attorney representing Belichick called the clerk Thursday to inquire about any potential issues arising from the coach’s failure to appear. He will not face any sanctions.

The inquiry from Belichick’s lawyer came as jurors in the trial of Hernandez, a former Patriots tight end, began their fifth day of deliberations Thursday morning.

They suspended deliberations around 4 p.m. Thursday without reaching a verdict. The jury will continue deliberating Friday.

“You spent a lot of time up in that small room, and I thank you for that,” Locke told jurors shortly before dismissing them Thursday.

On Wednesday, jurors saw Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter in the courtroom for the first time.

Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, the longtime fiancee of Hernandez, caused a minor stir when she brought the couple’s daughter into Courtroom 906 at the end of the day on Wednesday.

Hernandez beamed when he caught sight of the girl, who shares his birthday in November. He smiled and waved as Jenkins-Hernandez held her.

Once he took his seat at the defense table, Hernandez and one of his lawyers, Linda Kenney Baden, turned around to face the toddler, again smiling and waving.

Suffolk County prosecutors also turned and wore bemused expressions as the courtroom reunion played out behind them.

Jenkins-Hernandez and the girl sat directly behind the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the two men Hernandez is accused of killing.

As he waved goodbye to his daughter, de Abreu’s widow, Auriza, wiped her eyes.

Jenkins-Hernandez and the victims’ relatives returned to court on Thursday.

Hernandez, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of gunning down the two men in a drive-by shooting in Boston’s South End in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012.

He has also pleaded not guilty to a witness intimidation charge for allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley, his former friend and marijuana supplier, in an effort to silence him about the killings.

Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the June 2013 fatal shooting of Odin L. Lloyd, a 27-year-old Dorchester man who was dating the sister of Jenkins-Hernandez at the time of his death. The state’s highest court will automatically review his first-degree murder conviction in the Lloyd case at a later date.

KEITH BEDFORD/GLOBE STAFF



Aaron Hernandez found not guilty of double murder

In the end, a Suffolk County jury simply couldn’t buy the entire story that Alexander Bradley, the compromised star witness for the prosecution, was spinning.

So they found Aaron Hernandez not guilty on Friday of murdering Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a 2012 drive-by shooting in Boston’s Theatre District. The jury deliberated for 37 and a half hours, spread out over six days.

As the not-guilty verdict was read, some family members of de Abreu and Furtado rushed out of the courtroom in tears. Hernandez’s fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, who only days earlier arrived in court with the couple’s 4-year-old daughter, sobbed.

“We based our decision on the evidence and the law,” foreperson Lindsey Stringer said in a brief statement.

Hernandez was found guilty of the unlawful carrying of a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and was sentenced by Judge Jeffrey A. Locke to four-to-five years.

The decision changes little for Hernandez, who was already serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in a Massachusetts prison for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd in North Attleborough. While that first conviction will be automatically appealed, it is unlikely the former New England Patriots star will be granted a new trial, let alone ever walk free.

The not-guilty verdict comes one day before the two-year anniversary of Hernandez’s conviction for the murder of Lloyd.

As he walked out of court escorted by at least four officers, heading back to prison, Hernandez turned toward Jenkins-Hernandez and mouthed, “I love you.”

The verdict is a difficult blow for prosecutors and the families of two innocent men who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time – running into Hernandez and Bradley on a summer Sunday night in a Boston nightclub. The Commonwealth tried the case in an effort to deliver justice and closure for the victims and their supporters.

It is a massive victory, however, for Jose Baez, the celebrated defense attorney hired to defend Hernandez. Baez, who was not in court for the reading of the verdict reportedly due to a medical issue, can add this high-profile victory to helping young Florida mother Casey Anthony beat a charge that she murdered her 2-year-old daughter in 2011.

Too much of this case relied on the word of Bradley, an admitted drug and gun dealer who is serving time in Connecticut for an unrelated incident in which he shot up a Hartford nightclub after being involved in a gunfight. Bradley testified that Hernandez, angry at de Abreu for spilling a drink on him at a nightclub, was still fuming some two hours later when he unloaded five shots into the BMW carrying de Abreu and Furtado.

The defense countered that it was, in fact, Bradley who pulled the trigger due to a drug deal gone bad.

Neither side disagrees that Bradley was the wheelman that night. He proved, however, to be the only witness who identified Hernandez as the triggerman. Bradley had multiple motives to lie – from an immunity deal to his own hatred of Hernandez, whom allegedly shot Bradley in the face in 2013 and left him to die.

On the witness stand Bradley acknowledged he was testifying as a means of revenge only because his preferred method – murdering Hernandez – was not available due to Hernandez being incarcerated.

With so little physical evidence it was not simple to determine whether it was Hernandez who was the triggerman or Bradley. On that precise, but all-important point, there was clearly reasonable doubt.

“The man who committed these crimes was given immunity by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and will be out of prison soon,” defense attorney Ronald Sullivan said, referring to Bradley and according to Chris Villani of the Boston Herald.

Hernandez, 27, may have beaten the charge of the actual killings, but he was hardly innocent that night. He didn’t report the crime and afterward helped stash the murder car in a Connecticut house garage he was connected with.

The fall of Hernandez ranks among the most baffling and tragic in modern sports history. He, at the very least, was witness to the murder of de Abreu and Furtado just months after catching a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl and just weeks before signing a $40 million contract extension with the New England Patriots. He and his longtime girlfriend/fiancée had a baby on the way at the time.

The trial played out across six weeks in downtown Boston, just across the street from where Hernandez’s former teammates held another Super Bowl parade and celebration in February.


Jury acquits ex-Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez in double-murder trial

BOSTON -- Ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who is already serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, was acquitted Friday in a 2012 double slaying prosecutors said was fueled by his anger over a spilled drink.

The former tight end for the New England Patriots wept quietly as the verdicts were read in Boston. A few moments later, he looked back at his fiancée and nodded somberly as relatives of the victims sobbed loudly. A defense attorney hugged him.

After six days of deliberations, the jury found Hernandez not guilty of first-degree murder in the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. It convicted him 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.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley said the victims' families were devastated by the verdicts as well as by the defense's 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."

Conley said prosecutors and the families take solace in the fact that Hernandez is 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.

"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."

The defense team in the double-murder case had pointed the finger at Alexander Bradley, an admitted drug dealer and a close friend of Hernandez who was with him the night of the shootings. 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.

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.

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.

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

Jury forewoman Lindsey Stringer read a statement outside court, noting the more than 70 witnesses and over 380 exhibits presented in the case.

"We based our decision on the evidence presented and the law," Stringer said. She took no questions.

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.

Authorities said Hernandez fired five shots from a revolver into the car carrying de Abreu and Furtado.

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."

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