The murder trial of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez continued this week with prosecutors presenting two expert witnesses who placed the defendant and the victim at the scene of the shooting. As Hernandez’s murder trial progresses, prosecutors have built their case with experts to interpret the evidence for jurors and fingerprint and DNA testimony is the latest attempt to bolster the state’s case.
Aaron Hernandez on Trial for Murder
Hernandez is on trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old acquaintance of the former New England Patriot who was shot and killed on June 17th, 2013. Prosecutors charged Hernandez after police investigators uncovered evidence placing Lloyd and Hernandez together on the night of the murder and a series of communications between the two that indicated they had a recent disagreement.
Although the gun used to shoot Lloyd has not been found, and police have not been able to directly point to Hernandez as the shooter, the defendant can be found guilty of murder under a Massachusetts “joint venture” law that allows for conviction of any person who knowingly participated in a plan to commit the crime. Hernandez, who allegedly worked with two other men to orchestrate Lloyd’s killing, was arrested on June 26th, 2013 with his trial opening on January 29th of this year.
Police Fingerprint Expert Witness Testifies in Hernandez Murder Trial
Massachusetts State Police Trooper David Mackin took the stand this week to explain the fingerprint process that investigators used to place Hernandez and two alleged accomplices, Ernest Wallace, Jr. and Carlos Ortiz, at the scene of Lloyd’s murder. Central to Mackin’s testimony was evidence found in a Nissan Altima that prosecutors allege Hernandez rented in order to transport Lloyd to the murder scene on the night of June 17th. According to Mackin’s fingerprint investigation, all four men – Hernandez, Lloyd, Wallace, and Ortiz – left fingerprint evidence inside of the vehicle. Hernandez’s were on the driver’s side door handle and Lloyd’s were on the rear passenger door.
DNA Expert Witness Corroborates Prosecution in Hernandez Trial
Adding to the testimony from Trooper Mackin, prosecutors looked to a DNA expert witness from the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, Diana Fife Biagotti. Biagotti testified that DNA from Hernandez and Lloyd were found on the remains of a marijuana cigarette butt from the scene of the shooting, supporting the prosecution’s claim that the two men were together in the place where Lloyd was killed. Further, Biagotti testified that the defendant’s DNA was detected on a shell casing recovered from the Altima after it was returned to the rental agency. Police investigators recovered the shell casing stuck to a piece of chewing gum, and, according to Biagotti’s expert testimony, the casing contained evidence that Hernandez had handled it after it was fired.
Hernandez Attorneys Challenge Prosecution Expert Witnesses
Attorney for Hernandez, James Sultan, took both prosecution expert witnesses to task for failing to reconstruct a complete story of the night of the shooting. Sultan accused both experts of coming to conclusions that they wanted to see or hoped to see rather than objectively testifying about the facts of the case. In response to Trooper Mackin’s fingerprint testimony, Sultan pointed out that the fingerprints in the Altima could have been made at any time, and did not necessarily support the conclusion that Hernandez and Lloyd were in the vehicle together. Sultan also question Biagotti for failing to test other items found in the vehicle for DNA, suggesting that the police cherry picked evidence rather than conduct a thorough investigation.
Prosecutors have also presented expert witnesses on forensic video evidence to analyze footage of Hernandez’s activities on the night in question, and on crime scene reconstruction to suggest that Lloyd’s killers were in close proximity to him when he was shot. Sultan has challenged each expert for failing to fully connect all the dots back to Hernandez in order to give jurors an accurate picture of Lloyd’s murder. The trial is expected to last late into March with the defense yet to present its case.