January 13, 2015 / 12:07 PM / 3 years ago

Tattooed jurors? Detailed queries in ex-NFLer's murder trial

Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez attends a pre-trial hearing at Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, January 6, 2015. REUTERS/CJ Gunther/Pool

FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - Potential jurors in former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial were asked whether they had tattoos or were fans of the team as the initial phase of jury selection wrapped up on Tuesday.

More than 1,100 candidates for the jury were summoned over three days to Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, to fill out the questionnaire, which also included questions about whether they had personal experience with marijuana.

The jury will determine whether Hernandez, 25, is guilty of fatally shooting a semi-professional football player near his home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts on June 17, 2013.

It is the first of two murder trials scheduled this year for the former National Football League star, who is also charged with fatally shooting two Cape Verdean nationals outside a Boston nightclub in 2012.

The first trial concerns the death of Odin Lloyd, 27, whom prosecutors contend Hernandez shot to death several days after the two had argued at a nightclub.

Hernandez, who was a rising star in the league with a $41 million contract at the time of his arrest, has pleaded not guilty to all three murders, as well as to various firearms charges.

On Tuesday, Associate Justice Susan Garsh told the last of the potential jurors that they could be chosen even if they had heard or read about the case.

The potential jurors answered 51 questions to determine whether they could be fair and impartial. The document, later released by the court, included queries about the Patriots, tattoos and marijuana.

“Are you a fan of the New England Patriots?” one question read. “If yes, for how long have you been a fan?”

Other questions asked if potential jurors had ever attended a Patriots game and whether the fact that Hernandez had played for the Patriots would impair their ability to be impartial.

One question asked: “Do you or any member of your family have tattoos?” Hernandez has appeared in court heavily tattooed on both arms.

In coming days, the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will review the completed questionnaires and winnow down the candidates to a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates. Garsh will interview some of the candidates individually.

Two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, were also arrested in the slaying and will be tried separately. They have also pleaded not guilty.

Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney

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