NEW YORK - The murder trial of ex-NFL star Aaron Hernandez went to the jury on Tuesday after closing arguments in the case in a Massachusetts court.
Defence attorney James Sultan told the jury that the former New England Patriots tight end did not commit the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player from the Boston area who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.
Prosecutors say Hernandez and two other men, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, drove with Lloyd to an industrial park in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, where Lloyd was shot multiple times and left for dead.
A jogger found Lloyd's body on June 17, 2013, less than a mile from Hernandez's luxury home.
The murder weapon was never found. Prosecutors called more than 130 witnesses in an effort to prove Hernandez pulled the trigger on the handgun that killed Lloyd.
In his closing statement, Sultan acknowledged for the first time since the start of the trial in January that Hernandez witnessed the killing.
But the lawyer said the crime must have been committed by either Wallace or Ortiz, who are to be tried separately on murder charges.
"He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed something," Sultan said. "A shocking killing. Committed by someone he knew. He didn't know what to do." The defence added Tuesday that the prosecution has not yet proven who killed Lloyd, saying police presumed Hernandez's guilt and conducted the investigation around him." Prosecutor William McCauley implored the jury members to pore over the evidence, saying it will lead to a conclusion of Hernandez's guilt on the first-degree murder charge.
"We could ask for nothing more from a jury, but we expect nothing less," McCauley said when asking the jury to return a guilty verdict on the murder charge.
Judge Susan Garsh, in her instructions to the jury, said the panel must conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the prosecution completely proved Hernandez committed the murder if a guilty verdict is reached.
"Presence alone is not enough to convict the defendant, even if he knew about it," Garsh told jurors, who must reach a unanimous decision.
Hernandez has been in jail since his arrest on June 26, 2013. He was released by the Patriots hours after he was taken into custody.