On Wednesday, I made the observation that Aaron Hernandez's defense team sealed his fate by irresponsibly and outrageously conceding during closing arguments that he was at the scene of the crime, witnessed the murder and did nothing. It was a colossal shift in the defense strategy and I believe it made the difference between a guilty verdict and an acquittal. On Thursday, CNN's Anderson Cooper aired portions of an interview with the entire jury and their answers confirm that Hernandez's defense team helped secure a guilty verdict against its own client.
Under Massachusetts law, prosecutors didn't need to prove that Hernandez pulled the trigger, only that he knowingly participated in the crime. The prosecution however, had absolutely no solid evidence that he participated. It was able to present a wealth of circumstantial evidence indicating he may have been at the crime scene. However, merely being present or having knowledge of the crime is not enough to prove participation and get a conviction under Massachusetts law. Jurors even admitted in a post-verdict press conference that they couldn't be sure that Hernandez was there at the time of the murder until the closing arguments, when Hernandez's own defense team came forward and said, by the way Hernandez was there, witnessed the murder and was too shocked to do anything. This absolutely outrageous admission by the defense team erased all reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors about whether Hernandez participated in the crime. By saying that he witnessed the murder and did nothing, the defense revealed he was complicit in the crime. He did not call for help, report the crime nor try to get Lloyd any type of medical assistance. His omissions equate to his participation.
Home surveillance video shows Hernandez return back to his home and hanging out in his living room. The next day, videos catch him sipping a smoothie and laying out by the pool with his baby. It's amazing that the high-powered defense team actually thought it's theory would fly when there was surveillance video showing Hernandez hanging out with the very men who they say, shocked him and killed his future brother-in-law. Sure enough, in the Cooper interview, jurors admit that they found this behavior shocking, given the fact that they were told he witnessed the murder. One said, that Hernandez's indifference after witnessing the murder convinced her he was guilty. "He could have made choices when he was there," juror Kelly Dorsey said. "He was there, they admitted that." "They" being his idiotic defense team. Another juror, Jon Carlson, went on to say, "We watched the video footage later on at his home in the afternoon, after the incident occurred, and he was just lounging around by the pool and playing with his baby and just going about his regular life. I mean for us to have knowledge that he was there at the time, that his close friend was murdered... personally there is no way I could just carry on hours later like nothing ever happened. That's indifference." Dorsey adds, "To leave your friend on the ground, knowing that he's not there anymore. He's either dead or he's going to die -- that's indifference. He didn't need to pull the trigger. He could have made different choices when that man was lying there." The jurors confirming that Hernandez's omissions, his inaction amounted to participation and complicity in the crime.
Now had they not been told that he actually was there and saw the murder, his inaction would have never played into their decision. In fact, they would have been left doubting whether he was there and whether he was involved and even in a position to help. With no solid proof of participation, presence or knowledge, there likely would have been too much reasonable doubt to convict him.
Consider one more very telling piece of information indicating that the jury may have acquitted Hernandez absent his defense team's blunder: jurors say in the Cooper interview that they did not buy into the prosecution's theory of the case. The prosecution spent nine weeks trying to convince jurors that Hernandez was the mastermind of the entire murder. Prosecutors tried to prove this because in addition to proving Hernandez participated, they needed to prove that he either planned the murder or that he demonstrated extreme atrocity or cruelty in order to get a first-degree murder conviction. Mere participation was not enough. Guess what? Jurors admitted in the Cooper interview, that they did not believe he premeditated the murder. There was no solid proof for them to make that assumption. They simply didn't know. However, they did find extreme atrocity and cruelty. They decided that his indifference, his inaction, his decision not to help Lloyd but to simply leave his body there after witnessing a murder, was atrocity and cruelty. This conclusion would not have been possible if not for the defense admitting that he was there and witnessed the murder. Jurors would not have been able to blame Hernandez for what he didn't do if there had been no solid evidence that he was in a position to do anything. They could have never reasoned participation from his inaction, and they could have never concluded atrocity and cruelty from his actions after the murder without the knowledge that he witnessed it. Knowledge that the defense provided when it could've kept its mouth shut and left room for reasonable doubt. For all jurors knew, Hernandez could have been hanging with his friends that night, and drinking a smoothie by the pool because he never saw what happened.
This case is monumental in the sense that the defense team was instrumental in Aaron Hernandez's conviction. If not for its concessions in closing arguments, it's very probable that Hernandez would have walked free. In that sense, there are probably many people who may want to thank the defense.