Hernandez trial: Doubts surface in Glock Inc. manager's testimony

At the Aaron Hernandez trial, doubts surface in Glock Inc. manager's testimony.
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Aaron Hernandez’s legal team on Thursday attempted to debunk the damning testimony of Glock Inc. district manager Kyle Aspinwall, who on Wednesday told jurors that Hernandez appeared to be a holding a Glock semiautomatic pistol minutes after Odin Lloyd’s death. Aspinwall’s remarks on Wednesday were especially damaging since Bristol County (Mass.) prosecutors contend that Lloyd was shot dead by a .45-caliber Glock semiautomatic pistol.

Aspinwall made his observations while watching numerous video and still images of Hernandez in his North Attleboro (Mass.) home. The imagery had been captured on Hernandez’s sophisticated home surveillance system, which included multiple cameras located in and around his house. Hernandez is repeatedly shown holding a black item in one hand. Although the imagery is occasionally blurry and Hernandez is often at a considerable distance from the camera, the black item resembles a pistol. Aspinwall, a former chief of the Mont Vernon (N.H.) police department who now coordinates regional sales at Glock, spoke extensively about Glock’s unique, and clearly identifiable, characteristics as a way of supporting his contention that Hernandez seemed to be holding a Glock pistol.

Hernandez's attorney James Sultan began his cross-examination of Aspinwall at the end of Wednesday’s proceedings. He led Aspinwall to acknowledge that Glock manufactures many types of guns, and that some firearm companies have manufactured guns that, to some extent, resemble Glocks. Sultan hopes that jurors reason that even if the item in Hernandez’s hands was, in fact, a gun, they should not assume it was the murder weapon.

TRIAL COVERAGE: Opening statements | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25

Sultan continued to chip away at Aspinwall’s testimony on Thursday, the 26th day of the trial. In response to Sultan’s aggressive questioning, Aspinwall conceded that while he lectures on Glock guns and has substantial experience with guns as a Glock employee and former law enforcement officer, he is neither an expert in video analysis nor in weapons identification. This admission could give jurors reason to feel less certain about the item in Hernandez’s hand. Such juror doubt seems especially possible given that Judge Susan Garsh on Thursday limited Aspinall's testimony to identifying only certain aspects of the black item, and namely the apparent black strap of a pistol.

Jurors may have developed similar doubts about Hernandez holding a Glock semiautomatic pistol when Aspinwall noted that several images of Hernandez and others in his home were “too pixilated” to draw conclusions. A similar point was made when Sultan asked Aspinwall if he observed Hernandez with an iPad when a camera caught Hernandez in his living room. Aspinwall expressed uncertainty about the quality of the camera’s imagery and declined to offer definitive characterizations about activity caught on the camera. By hearing Aspinwall repeatedly acknowledge technical limitations about the cameras’ visuals, jurors may have become less confident in the surveillance system, a source of reliable evidence, and thus less certain in Aspinwall’s conclusions about Hernandez holding a Glock pistol.

Sultan also incorporated a visual reference to stir misgivings about Hernandez holding the same type of weapon allegedly used to murder Lloyd. Sultan introduced a toy gun that appeared similar to a Glock pistol. He used it to suggest that Hernandez’s grip on the black item caught in the video would be more consistent with the item being a toy gun than a real gun given the danger of placing his hand in front of the gun’s barrel.

Aspinwall’s testimony also gave jurors reason to believe that Hernandez, as a civilian, was unlikely to possess the kind of gun used to kill Lloyd. Aspinwall accepted Sultan’s description of some types of .45-caliber Glocks as of limited quantity and often sold to law enforcement agencies.

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court sides with Judge Garsh on excluding testimony

As expected, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Thursday rejected an appeal by prosecutors regarding Superior Court Judge Garsh’s decision to bar testimony from Hernandez's “friend” Robert Paradis. Prosecutors wanted jurors to hear Paradis testify that he felt a gun in Hernandez’s shirt while Hernandez visited California six weeks before Lloyd’s murder. Garsh reasoned that the testimony would have been more prejudicial than probative, particularly given its unclear connection to Lloyd’s murder.

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.