FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - Prosecutors rested their murder case against former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez on Thursday, bringing to a close weeks of at-times gruesome testimony in a trial that has shaken U.S. professional sports.
Prosecutors say Hernandez, who played tight end for the New England Patriots, gunned down semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near Hernandez’s house in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, before dawn on June 17, 2013.
They called more than 120 witnesses to testify since the trial began in late January, including investigators and family members, and presented the jury with phone records, text messages, and surveillance video to bolster their case.
But defense attorneys, who will begin presenting their case on Monday with closing arguments likely in the middle of next week, said in a court filing Thursday that the case is too weak to warrant a murder conviction. Hernandez, 25, has pleaded not guilty and faces possible life in prison.
On Thursday, Massachusetts medical examiner Dr. William Zane testified that Lloyd had six bullet wounds, including one in the back and two in the chest. He showed the jury the locations of the wounds by putting stickers on a mannequin.
“The gunshot wound to the left chest would be fatal,” said Zane, the prosecution’s final witness. He said the shot would have killed Lloyd in “seconds to minutes.” He said two of the other wounds also caused fatal injuries.
He said he could not tell whether Lloyd’s wounds had been caused by six different bullets.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, killed Lloyd with a .45-caliber Glock handgun, after Hernandez and Lloyd had a disagreement at a nightclub two nights before. The weapon has not been found.
They presented evidence that the men picked Lloyd up in Boston and drove him to the industrial park where he was killed. They also played surveillance video from Hernandez’s house that showed Hernandez holding what they say is a Glock handgun minutes after Lloyd’s death.
After the prosecution rested, defense attorneys filed a motion with the court asking it to clear Hernandez. “There is substantial evidence placing Hernandez at the scene where Lloyd was killed,” they wrote. “However ... there is no evidence, let alone proof beyond a reasonable doubt, about what, if anything, Hernandez did at that scene.”
They added that there may have been enough evidence to convict Hernandez as an accessory-after-the-fact to murder. “But he is not on trial for that offense,” they wrote.
Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Chizu Nomiyama, Ted Botha, Richard Chang, Paul Simao and Lisa Shumaker