First round of jury selection nears end in ex-NFLer's murder trial

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 13, 2015 7:03 AM

By Daniel Lovering

FALL RIVER, Mass. (Reuters) - The initial phase of jury selection in the first murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday, with the last of more than 1,100 candidates set to fill out screening questionnaires.

The jury, which will sit at Massachusetts Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, 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 at an industrial park near his home, after the two argued at a night club several days earlier.

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.

Associate Justice Susan Garsh has ordered potential jurors to wear no Patriots-themed clothes in court and ordered them to read no news accounts of the crime until they are dismissed. The court plans to disclose the topics of the juror questionnaires following the last round of pre-screening on Tuesday.

After all potential jurors have filled out the questionnaires, the judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will winnow down the 1,000-plus candidates into a panel of 12 jurors and six alternates.

The jury hearing the case in Fall River will not hear about the alleged Boston murders during the trial, Garsh has ruled.

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

(Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Peter Cooney)