January 26, 2015 / 7:13 PM / in 3 years

Jury seated for ex-NFLer Hernandez's murder trial, to begin Thursday

FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - A Massachusetts judge on Monday completed jury selection for the trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez on charges of killing a semiprofessional football player near his home in June 2013.

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

A jury of five men and 13 women were seated after more than two weeks of selection. Opening statements were set for Thursday in Hernandez’s trial on murder and firearms charges, which is expected to last six to 10 weeks at Fall River Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Hernandez, 25, formerly a rising star in the National Football League, is accused of killing semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home on June 17, 2013. He has pleaded not guilty.

“We have a jury,” Associate Justice Susan Garsh said after the last of the jurors were selected on Monday. “Because of the anticipated blizzard, we’re not going to start until Thursday.”

A major snowstorm is bearing down on the East Coast, prompting officials across the region to close courts, schools and other public services.

Garsh interviewed hundreds of candidates for the panel to determine whether they could be fair and impartial. Prosecutors and defense attorneys then narrowed the jury to 18 people, six of whom will be randomly selected as alternates just before deliberations begin.

The jurors were selected from more than 1,100 people who were summoned to the courthouse for possible jury service. Potential jurors were asked to fill out questionnaires that asked, among other things, whether they were Patriots fans.

Hernandez appeared with his lawyers in court on Monday wearing a jacket and tie, as Odin Lloyd’s mother looked on from the gallery.

The former tight end had a $41 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested and cut from the team days after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was discovered.

Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins. Prosecutors say 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, were also arrested in the slaying and will be tried separately. They have also pleaded not guilty.

In a separate case, Hernandez has been accused of shooting two Cape Verdean nationals outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.

Reporting by Daniel Lovering; Editing by Scott Malone and Eric Beech

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