In-Depth Coverage: Aaron Hernandez Murder Trial »
BOSTON (WPRI) — On the opening day of the double murder trial of Aaron Hernandez, a prosecutor painted a picture of an agitated, paranoid man who detested disrespect and killed two men because one of them spilled a drink on him.
The defense sowed doubt on the prosecutor’s star witness and claimed law enforcement mishandled evidence and intimidated witnesses in order to pin the crimes on Hernandez.
Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is already serving a life sentence for the unrelated 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.
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In the Boston case, which dates back to July 2012, prosecutors say Hernandez killed 29-year-old Daniel de Abreu and 28-year-old Safiro Furtado outside Club Cure in the city’s theater district.
“Daniel de Abreu danced into Aaron Hernandez and he spilled his drink,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan told a jury in his opening statement Wednesday. He alleged that Hernandez took the encounter as a sign of disrespect and it was the motive for the murder.
Haggan said Hernandez and the victims did not know each other and came from “two very different worlds” that collided that night.
“One world was that of working-class immigrants, relatively recently in this country. The other world was that of a professional athlete, a celebrity in the city of Boston,” Haggan explained.
Haggan said after the drink was spilled, Hernandez and his friend, Alexander Bradley waited for two hours for de Abreu, Furtado and three other friends to leave the nightclub. When they did, Haggan claims Hernandez fired five gunshots out the window of his own car into the victims’ car, killing de Abreu and Furtado and wounding one of the other men, who survived.
“Two men’s lives were snuffed out in a hail of gunfire,” Haggan said.
Bradley, who prosecutors allege Hernandez shot in the face in Florida a year later, is the prosecution’s star witness. Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation in the case of Bradley.
Hernandez’ defense attorney, Jose Baez, painted a different picture of the night in question, casting doubt on Bradley’s credibility and floating the possibility that Bradley himself could have committed the murder.
“This story not only doesn’t make sense, it’s outright crazy,” Baez said. The defense attorney gained nationwide fame in 2011 after getting Casey Anthony acquitted of murdering her daughter.
Baez told jurors in his opening statement that crucial video evidence of the spilled-drink encounter from the nightclub “disappeared,” and outright accused law enforcement of mishandling the crime scene.
“The one piece of evidence – the main piece of evidence…is missing. It disappeared,” Baez said. He also claimed that Boston police mishandled the victims’ bodies, contaminating them with sheets and allowing a street-sweeper to pass through the crime scene.
Baez offered an alternative scenario, arguing that one of the victims knew Alexander Bradley.
“This didn’t happen over a spilled drink,” Baez said. “This happened over a drug deal. Alexander Bradley had issues with Daniel de Abreu.”
Abreu’s sister disputed that theory, testifying that her brother did not do drugs. She was asked by the defense if she was aware of a connection between Abreu and “a narcotics provider from Connecticut.”
“No, that doesn’t sound like my brother at all,” Neusa Abreu said. It was her car that Daniel borrowed the night he went to Club Cure, and he ultimately died inside the silver BMW. She said Abreu was a military veteran in his home country of Cape Verde and also a police officer.
Safiro Furtado’s sister was also called to the stand Wednesday, and also testified that her brother did not do drugs. Both sisters sobbed as they were asked to identify photos of their brothers.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.