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Former NFL Star Aaron Hernandez Gets Life Sentence For Murder

A court officer places handcuffs on the wrists of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez after he was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass.
Dominick Reuter
A court officer places handcuffs on the wrists of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez after he was found guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday at the Bristol County Superior Court in Fall River, Mass.

Aaron Hernandez, whose rise to elite status in the NFL was ended by charges that he shot and killed a man, has been found guilty of first-degree murder. In 2013, Hernandez was accused of killing the boyfriend of his fiancee's sister.

The verdict comes on the seventh day of a jury's deliberations on counts that ranged from murder to gun and ammunition charges. As the findings were read in a Fall River, Mass., courtroom, Hernandez sat between his lawyers and occasionally shook his head.

The 12-member jury had to reach a unanimous decision on the charge of first-degree murder. In Massachusetts, first-degree murder verdicts also trigger an automatic appeal.

Update at 11:40 a.m. ET: Sentence Of Life Without Parole

After hearing impact statements from Odin Lloyd's family, Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh has announced that Hernandez will serve a prison sentence for the rest of his natural life, without the possibility of parole.

Lloyd's mother, sister and uncle were among those who spoke about him.

Of her first-born son, Ursula Ward said he was the "best gift I've ever received."

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of life without parole on the murder charge. The defense team said it didn't have much to add, noting the mandatory sentencing guidelines.

Our original post continues:

Hernandez was 23 when he was arrested in June of 2013 for the murder of Odin Lloyd, 27. The next day, the New England Patriots announced they had cut him from the team.

As we've reported, evidence in the case "includes surveillance footage, cellphone text messages, rental car records and elements of the crime scene."

That surveillance footage included video from Hernandez's home the night Lloyd was shot, in which he was seen holding an object that prosecutors said was a Glock pistol. His defense team said it was an iPad.

The case surprised many football fans, particularly those who had watched Hernandez emerge as a key player as a tight end for the Patriots.

The AP reports:

"Prosecutors never offered a clear motive for why Hernandez would want to kill Lloyd. The defense has acknowledged that Hernandez witnessed the killing but questioned why he would put his career on the line to kill someone. He had a $40 million contract with the Patriots at the time."

The Boston Globe summarizes the prosecution's case:

"Hernandez, 25, and two accomplices picked up Lloyd, 27, a landscaper who played semiprofessional football, at his home on the pretext that they would party together. Instead they drove through the darkness to an industrial park in North Attleborough near the football player's spacious home, where Hernandez shot Lloyd several times with a .45-caliber Glock pistol, including two kill shots to Lloyd's chest as he writhed in pain on the ground."

The case is far from being Hernandez's only legal problem: Last May, he was charged with an additional two murders, as prosecutors accused him of sneaking up on two men at a stoplight and shooting them to death, after what they called a "chance encounter" at a bar. That case dates from the summer of 2012, just weeks before Hernandez signed a lucrative contract extension with the Patriots.

As WBUR reported last year, police say they uncovered evidence tying Hernandez to that double-murder in the process of investigating Lloyd's death.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.