The high-profile criminal trial of former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez is wrapping up in Boston, and prosecutors ended their case with testimony from medical and forensic expert witnesses called to connect Hernandez to a 2012 fatal shooting. Facing the daunting task of prosecuting a 5-year-old murder without substantial physical evidence linking the defendant to the crime, prosecutors have built their case largely on witness testimony, and called medical and forensic experts to tie all the information together in an effort to secure a conviction.
Aaron Hernandez Faces Double Murder Charge for 2012 Shooting
Hernandez, who is currently serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, faces an additional murder conviction for his alleged role in the 2012 drive-by shooting of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado who died after suffering multiple gunshot wounds outside of a Boston nightclub. Hernandez is also facing charges of witness intimidation for shooting his former friend and marijuana dealer who claims to have witnessed the murder in an effort to keep him quiet.
Although the prosecution called several witnesses who associated with Hernandez either the night of the murders or during the immediate aftermath to connect him to the shooting, many of them were exposed as having faulty or incomplete memories, risking the chances of earning a conviction. Boston prosecutors have supplemented their reliance on witness testimony with some circumstantial evidence, including text messages between Hernandez and his associates and even the defendant’s tattoos, but there is a lack of physical evidence which can secure a guilty verdict.
In an effort to complete the story of their case, prosecutors called expert witnesses to explain how the physical and forensic evidence suggests Hernandez killed the two victims.
Expert Witnesses Called for Forensic Testimony in Hernandez Murder Trial
Towards the end of its case, prosecutors seeking a double murder conviction against Aaron Hernandez called forensic expert Michael Haag to help recreate the crime scene for jurors. Haag spent his testimony going over crime scene photos with prosecutors to explain the bullet trajectory which supports claims that the shots were fired from a vehicle directly next to the victims’ BMW. Haag also supported the prosecution’s theory that five shots were fired by pointing to forensic evidence which matched and accounted for the number of bullets police recovered at the scene.
The state wrapped up its case by calling medical expert Dr. Katherine Lidstrom from the Massachusetts medical examiner’s office to discuss the fatal injuries suffered by each of the victims. During an emotional session which saw members of the victims’ families cry or leave the courtroom, Dr. Lidstrom explained that Furtado would have died instantly after being shot in the head, but evidence suggests that de Abreu likely suffered physical and emotional pain prior to his death. According to Dr. Lidstrom’s expert testimony, de Abreau’s chest cavity was filled with blood and he did not die immediately, but suffered for several minutes.
As prosecutors wrapped up their case with forensic and medical expert witnesses, they provided testimony which supports accounts from eyewitnesses who the state leaned on to build its case. Attorneys representing Hernandez responded to each witness with an effort to discredit their knowledge of the facts, and accused the prosecution of relying on emotions to sway jurors.
Hernandez Attorneys Criticize Expert Testimony for lack of Knowledge
Attorneys representing Aaron Hernandez challenged the prosecution’s forensic and medical experts for not having enough knowledge about the case and providing irrelevant testimony. Although the prosecution’s forensic expert theorized that five bullets were fired, defense attorneys cast doubt on his conclusion by having him admit a sixth could have been involved. This difference is important as Hernandez’s lawyers attempted to use it to discredit Haag and his testimony.
The use of a medical expert to explain the manner in which the victims died drew particular ire of the defense as well, with a lead attorney for Hernandez claiming Dr. Lidstrom’s testimony was more focused on swaying jurors’ emotions rather than providing evidence against the defendant. Saying the case was “high on emotion and low on evidence,” attorney Jose Baez told reporters that he believed the prosecution failed to meet its burden with substantial evidence. As the case against Hernandez wraps up, defense attorneys will need to focus their efforts on using evidence or counter-expert testimony to successfully discredit the prosecution’s case against an unpopular and unlikable defendant.