Wednesday March 4th, 2015

Do text messages sent between Aaron Hernandez and Odin Lloyd during the days and hours before Lloyd’s death signal a murder plot or merely a conversation about marijuana? On Tuesday, the 19th day of the trial, jurors heard testimony from Raymond McDonald, a custodian of records for T-Mobile. Bristol County (Mass.) prosecutors called McDonald to testify so that he could authenticate texts and calls associated with Lloyd’s phone.

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A few revealing points can be ascertained from Lloyd’s texts. First, Lloyd concealed Hernandez’s identity on his phone. Lloyd’s phone listed Hernandez as a contact not by name but by the nickname, “Dis [variation of the “n” word].” It’s unclear why Lloyd would use that particular phrase and obscenity to describe Hernandez, but it suggests a desire to prevent others from finding out he was in contact with Hernandez. Given that Lloyd allegedly provided Hernandez with marijuana—Lloyd, according to Hernandez’s attorneys, was Hernandez’s “blunt master”—it would make sense that Lloyd not use Hernandez’s real name. Lloyd might have been concerned that if he lost his phone and Hernandez’s name was linked to his texts, Lloyd would unintentionally implicate Hernandez as an illegal drug user.

Second, Hernandez and Lloyd texted each other regularly and their texts did not indicate hostility or forthcoming violence. For example, in one text five days before Lloyd’s death, Lloyd wrote to Hernandez, “I was gonna slide thru I ain’t got [expletive deleted] to do how many u got done?,” to which Hernandez replied, “I didn’t finish a whole one yet maybe half, it’s in u.” In another text, sent three days before Lloyd’s death, Lloyd and Hernandez seemed to have a cordial exchange. Lloyd texted, “I’ll hit u when I’m dat way” and Hernandez responded, “Aite.” In a text to Hernandez approximately six hours before Lloyd’s death, Lloyd referenced “coming to grab that tonight” and that he and Hernandez “could step for a little again.” While it’s impossible to know for certain what any of these texts mean, they arguably seem consistent with drug use or hanging out.

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Third, while the texts do not seem to help the prosecution establish that Hernandez planned to kill Lloyd or had a reason to kill Lloyd, they nonetheless help place Hernandez with Lloyd on the night of Lloyd’s murder. The text messages clearly reference a plan to meet up. In this regard, the texts help the prosecution establish a timeline where Hernandez and Lloyd were with one another when Lloyd was killed.

Housekeeper testifies to Hernandez touching security camera in his home

Glaucia Dos Santos, a housekeeper, also testified on Tuesday. Through a translator, Dos Santos described how she watched Hernandez touch a security camera on the ceiling of his basement a day after Lloyd’s murder. She also recalled seeing and smelling significant amounts of marijuana in Hernandez’s home, and, like other witnesses, observed that Hernandez’s fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, “seemed to be nervous” in the aftermath of Lloyd’s death. 

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A description of Hernandez touching a camera a day after Lloyd’s death casts obvious suspicion. Jurors might wonder why Hernandez appeared to alter his security camera and whether it had anything to do with Jenkins carrying a mysterious trash bag out of Hernandez’s home.

On the other hand, Dos Santos’ testimony invites more speculation than analysis and is far from conclusive of wrongdoing. Hernandez attorney Michael Fee tried to make this point clear in his cross-examination of Dos Santos. Fee gave jurors numerous reasons to place only modest significance in her testimony.

Dos Santos acknowledged, for instance, that she had never met Hernandez until that day, thus implicitly signaling she was not in a position to know if Hernandez adjusted his security cameras as a matter of routine. She also noted that Hernandez did not use any tools to alter the camera, nor did he leave any plastic or glass near the camera after he was done touching it. This suggested that whatever Hernandez did to the camera might have been of limited consequence. Dos Santos, through her translator, also gave conflicted testimony about whether she felt “nervous” once Hernandez knew she was watching him. Ultimately she indicated she felt nervous, although not because she feared Hernandez but rather because of her concern about all of the cleaning she needed to get done.

Mass State Police: Fingerprints connect Hernandez, co-defendants and Lloyd to car

Massachusetts state trooper David Mackin also took the stand on Tuesday and gave lengthy testimony about fingerprint evidence. He explained how the “friction ridge detail” on fingers is unique to one person (“nobody has ever been found to have same fingerprints,” Mackin told the court) and is also “persistent,” in that the ridge reappears even after paper cuts or light burns. Mackin’s testimony established the scientific basis for the court to rely on his more specific testimony about the friction ridge details associated with Hernandez, Ernest Wallace, Carlos Ortiz and Lloyd.

[daily_cut.nfl] Mackin offered two main conclusions about fingerprint evidence related to the trial. First, fingerprints could not be located on the .45 shell casing found in the Nissan Altima Hernandez rented and allegedly used to drive Lloyd to the industrial park. This is helpful for Hernandez, since it distances him from a key piece of implicating evidence. Mackin’s second main conclusion, however, was not helpful for Hernandez. Mackin testified that Hernandez’s fingerprints were found on the Nissan Altima’s inside handle drive side door handle—thus suggesting that Hernandez drove the Altima—and that fingerprints from Wallace, Ortiz and Lloyd were also found on the car. Mackin’s testimony strongly supports the prosecution’s proposed narrative that Hernandez, with Wallace and Ortiz as passengers in the car, picked up Lloyd and drove him to the industrial park.

Hernandez attorney James Sultan had only begun his cross-examination of Mackin before court adjourned for the day. Sultan, nonetheless, used his brief time to attempt to undermine Mackin’s credibility. Mackin acknowledged that the International Association for Identification (IAI) has not certified him as a fingerprint examiner. The IAI is an international organization that, among other things, certifies fingerprint examiners. Mackin insisted, however, that he has significant expertise in the analysis of fingerprints and other forms of evidence through his work for the Massachusetts State Police and his earlier employment as a military police officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. Mackin will be back on the stand on Wednesday.

Michael McCann is a Massachusetts attorney and the founding director of the Sports and Entertainment Law Institute at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. He is also the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law.

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