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Woman who mistakenly linked Hernandez to Deflategate excused from serving

Aaron Hernandez, left, and defense attorney Ronald Sullivan go over paperwork during motion hearings prior to Hernandez's double murder trial in Boston, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (Chris Christo/The Boston Herald via AP, Pool)

Chris Christo/The Boston Herald via AP

Aaron Hernandez (left) and defense attorney Ronald Sullivan discussed paperwork during pretrial hearings Monday in Boston.

Three people were selected Friday to serve on the jury for the upcoming double murder trial of Aaron Hernandez, capping a bizarre day that included a Deflategate reference and some jurors possibly flouting a judge’s order barring any discussion of the case against the former New England Patriots star.

The Deflategate incident came up during questioning of a woman identified as juror 13 in Suffolk Superior Court. She told Judge Jeffrey Locke that she knew little about Hernandez, except for a brief conversation she overheard among co-workers about a year ago.

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She said his name came up in connection with Deflategate, prompting laughter from Hernandez and his defense team.

“Deflategate has nothing to do with this case at all,” Locke said, referencing the equipment scandal that cast a pall over the Patriots and led to a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady.

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The woman said she understood, but said of her co-workers, “that’s what they were talking about.”

She was excused from serving. During the afternoon session, lawyers on both sides were blindsided by the news that at least one remaining possible juror mentioned Hernandez’s 2015 conviction for killing Odin Lloyd, while jurors were waiting in a separate room.

Locke had instructed the jury pool not to discuss Hernandez with anyone, but under questioning Friday afternoon, one man told the judge that someone mentioned the former athlete’s prior conviction for “shooting and killing somebody.”

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The man said he could not recall what that juror looked like, except that he was also male.

Locke asked if knowledge of Hernandez’s prior conviction would taint the man’s judgment of the current double murder case.

“I would hope not, but I couldn’t say for sure,” the man said.

In the current case, Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder for the drive-by shootings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston’s South End on July 16, 2012.

After learning of the possible Lloyd discussions among jurors, Locke dismissed the three remaining people who had been waiting to be questioned and said jury selection will continue Tuesday.

Before the problems came to light, two women and a man were selected for the jury in the morning.

The man, Juror 19, identified himself as a graphic designer living in Jamaica Plain, and he said his brother has been jailed for selling opiates and guns.

“I think he sold an assault rifle to an undercover cop,” the man said, adding that he could judge the case against Hernandez fairly and that he harbored no bias against law enforcement.

“He very clearly broke the law,” the man said of his brother.

One of the women chosen for the jury, identified as Juror 7, said she works at an animal hospital and knew nothing about the case beyond the summary that Locke provided to the larger jury pool.

Asked for her thoughts on eyewitness testimony, she said, “I know it can be less reliable than other forms of testimony, but it’s still valid.”

Prosecutors are expected to rely heavily on eyewitness testimony at trial.

The other woman who was selected, a native of the Dominican Republic, initially said she did not understand the concept of prosecutors having the burden of proof in the case.

But once it was explained, she said she believes a person is innocent until proven guilty. She also said, in response to a question from defense lawyer Jose Baez, that she felt it was fair that the burden of proof rests entirely with prosecutors.

“They have to do their job,” she said, gesturing across the table to the prosecution team.

Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the Lloyd killing in 2013 in North Attleborough. The state’s highest court will automatically review his first-degree murder conviction in that case at a later date.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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