FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - The jury at the murder trial of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez will not hear of the last text messages his alleged victim sent to his sister or details of another dual murder the defendant is charged with, a Massachusetts judge ruled Friday.
Prosecutors had argued Odin Lloyd’s last text messages showed he had believed he was in danger as he rode in a car with New England Patriots’ Hernandez after being summoned to his house late one night in June 2013.
They had also planned to argue at the trial, set to begin in January, that Hernandez had told Lloyd about a prior shooting incident.
The text messages from Lloyd, a semi-professional football player to his sister said, “Did you see who I’m with,” “NFL” and “just so you know.”
But in the pretrial hearing, Judge Susan Garsh said Lloyd’s text messages on his last night are not relevant to the case because there is no evidence that he believed he was about to die. She also knocked down a bid by prosecutors to introduce a 2012 double-homicide in Boston that Hernandez will be tried on later next year, blocking their effort to argue that Hernandez killed Lloyd after admitting that prior shooting.
“It is clearly in the realm of speculation,” said Garsh, a Massachusetts Superior Court associate justice.
Defense attorney James Sultan had argued that Lloyd’s messages could have been read as simple bragging about being with a celebrity.
“There was nothing sinister or weird about the fact that Mr. Lloyd had gotten into this car,” Sultan said.
During his career with the Patriots, Hernandez was one of the top tight ends in the National Football League. He had a $41 million contract when he was arrested last year and charged with murdering Lloyd in an industrial park near North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
Hernandez, 25, is also charged with the 2012 slayings of two men outside a Boston nightclub following a dispute over a spilled drink.
He has pleaded not guilty to both the shooting of Lloyd and of Cape Verdean nationals Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the victims in the 2012 homicide.
The jury will also not hear about a claim made in a civil suit by Hernandez’s former friend, Alexander Bradley, that Hernandez shot Bradley in the face and wounded him after a dispute in Florida in February 2013, Garsh ruled on Friday.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott and Susan Heavey