Credit Pool photo by Dominick Reuter
A jury in Fall River, Mass., found Aaron Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder on Wednesday after seven days of deliberation.
The crime carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Mr. Hernandez, who was handcuffed immediately after the verdict, was to be formally sentenced later Wednesday.
Mr. Hernandezâs mother, Terri, and his fiancÃ©e, Shayanna Jenkins, embraced and cried at the announcement. Ursula Ward, the mother of the victim, Odin Lloyd, also wept.
The jurors were polled after the verdict and all agreed with the first-degree murder conviction. Mr. Hernandez was also found guilty of firearms charges.
Mr. Hernandez, 25, a former star New England Patriots tight end, was charged with murder in the killing of Mr. Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Ms. Jenkins. Mr. Lloyd, a 27-year-old semiprofessional football player, was found shot six times in a pit near Mr. Hernandezâs home in North Attleboro, Mass., in June 2013.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Hernandezâs motive was that Mr. Lloyd spoke at a Boston bar with people Mr. Hernandez did not like.
The prosecution took more than two months and called more than 100 witnesses. Prosecutors painstakingly tried to build a case with pieces of evidence as tiny as a wad of gum on a shell casing found in a car rented by Mr. Hernandez. Also under scrutiny were Mr. Hernandezâs Size 13 Air Jordans, which may or may not have matched footprints found at the scene of the crime.
Their case was largely circumstantial. No murder weapon was located, and no independent witness to the shooting came forward.
The defenseâs case lasted just a day and included only three witnesses.
In closing arguments, the defense lawyer James Sultan acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Hernandez was at the scene of the killing. The defense raised the possibility that two other men, who are charged separately for the crime, committed it while high on PCP.
Defense lawyers noted that Mr. Hernandez had signed a $ 40 million contract extension, so had little motive to be involved in a murder. They also accused the police of conducting a sloppy investigation.
A key witness was Ms. Jenkins, Mr. Hernandezâs fiancÃ©e, who received immunity in exchange for her testimony.
She testified that late on the night that Mr. Lloydâs body was found, but before she knew about his death, Mr. Hernandez called her from the police station and asked her to give some money to Ernest Wallace, one of the other men eventually charged in the killing.
The most discussed part of her testimony was when she spoke of a mysterious box that she said Mr. Hernandez instructed her to remove from their house and discard the day after Mr. Lloyd was found.
On March 30, she said that she disposed of the box after driving to a Dumpster, but did not recall where that was. She also claimed Mr. Hernandez did not tell her what was in the box, nor did she look inside.
The prosecution also called Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the Patriots. He was questioned about a conversation he had with Mr. Hernandez shortly after the killing and recounted that Mr. Hernandez had looked him in the eye and said he was innocent.
Mr. Hernandez was released by the Patriots after he was arrested.
He could still face a trial on charges of fatally shooting two men outside a nightclub in 2012.