FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez’s girlfriend and mother will be allowed to attend his upcoming murder trial, at which jurors may view items including a trophy case at his Massachusetts home, a judge ruled on Tuesday.
Judge Susan Garsh ruled at Hernandez’s final pretrial hearing that his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, and his mother, Terri Hernandez, may attend the trial even though they may be called as witnesses.
Jury selection in the trial is set to begin on Friday.
Hernandez had a $41 million contract with the New England Patriots when he was charged in June 2013 with killing Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player whose body was found near Hernandez’s house. The team cut ties with Hernandez hours his arrest on June 26, 2013.
Lloyd, 27, had been dating Jenkins’ sister. Prosecutors said he and Hernandez had argued after Lloyd socialized at a nightclub with people Hernandez disliked.
Two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, have also been charged in the killing. All three have pleaded not guilty.
On Tuesday, Garsh ruled that jurors will be allowed to travel to cell towers that carried the mobile phone communications of suspects, despite protests from defense attorney James Sultan that there was “no reason for the jury to go on this reenactment voyage.”
The judge also approved a motion filed by defense attorneys to allow jurors to see rooms in Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Massachusetts, house without personal items such as a trophy case and family photos covered up, as prosecutors had requested.
Prosecutor William McCauley argued that such items, including jerseys from the tight end’s football career, would draw the interest of jurors to “Aaron Hernandez the Patriots player rather than Aaron Hernandez the defendant on trial.”
Garsh disagreed, saying, “covering up pictures of family photos that existed as of the date of the incident at issue gives the house a certain sterility that is also unfair.”
Hernandez, 25, is also charged with the 2012 slaying of Cape Verdean nationals Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado outside a Boston nightclub following a dispute over a spilled drink. He is scheduled to face trial on those charges in Boston later this year. He has also pleaded not guilty in that case.
Editing by Scott Malone and Alan Crosby