FALL RIVER — The mother of murder victim Odin L. Lloyd received a stern warning from the judge after prosecutors asked her to identify a picture of her son’s dead body on a table. His face was turned to the side, his body covered in a blue sheet.
Ursula Ward, Lloyd’s mother, cried softly. The jury was not in the room.
“I understand that this is very emotional for you,” Judge E. Susan Garsh said as Ward nodded. Garsh instructed Ward to compose herself once the jury was back in the courtroom. “Maintain control of your emotions. You are not to cry.”
The unusual command came during the third day of testimony in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez.
Ward took the stand after Hernandez’s lawyer Charles Rankin — through persistent, methodical questioning — compelled Lloyd’s reluctant girlfriend to reveal a closer relationship than she had previously described between Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, and Lloyd, who was fatally shot on June 17, 2013, in an industrial yard in North Attleborough.
At family parties, Hernandez and Lloyd would sneak off together to smoke marijuana and hang out. Once, while their girlfriends slept in Hernandez’s Plainville condominium, the two men hung out until dawn. They also went on date nights to the movies and hung out at clubs, according to testimony Wednesday from Shaneah Jenkins, Lloyd’s girlfriend.
“Did it appear to you that they were enjoying each other’s company?” Rankin asked Jenkins during cross-examination.
“Yes,” she said.
During her direct testimony on Tuesday, Jenkins, a 23-year-old law student, said that Lloyd and Hernandez were only “at the beginning stages of friendship,” a ding in the defense theory that Hernandez would not have killed a man he considered a friend.
But Rankin was able to elicit testimony from Jenkins that the two men spent considerable time together in the nine months they knew each other. When Rankin asked if it was true that Jenkins and her sister Shayanna, Hernandez’s fiancee, once had to go looking for the two men after they disappeared during a cookout, Jenkins shrugged.
“Probably,” she said. “I don’t remember.”
During direct testimony, Jenkins said that Hernandez seemed “stressed” in the days after Lloyd’s death, intimating that he was worried about the police. But Rankin reminded her of the grand jury testimony she gave in the days following the killing in which she described Hernandez as “shaken,” unable to eat, and wanting to be left alone.
Martin G. Weinberg, a prominent Boston defense lawyer who is following the case, said the grand jury testimony could help the defense suggest to the jury that Hernandez was grieving for a friend rather than worrying about law enforcement.
“The defense elicited that evidence to set up a future argument that he was upset about the death of his friend,” Weinberg said.
Bristol Assistant District Attorney William McCauley sought again to downplay the relationship between Hernandez and Lloyd when he called Lloyd’s mother to the stand.
Ward was able to name half a dozen of her son’s friends who regularly came to her Dorchester house. But Ward told the jury that Hernandez never came over, and that she had never met him.
Ward kept her composure as she testified about the last time she saw her son alive.
On June 16, Lloyd went to his niece’s ballet recital, then played a game with his semiprofessional football team, the Boston Bandits, at English High School in Jamaica Plain.
The next day, Father’s Day, Ward saw LLoyd across the street as she was coming home from church. He walked over to greet her.
“I just saw his beautiful pink gums smiling across the street,” Ward said, smiling slightly.
The following night, detectives showed up at her house to tell her that Lloyd was dead.
Before Ward testified, Garsh held a hearing without the jury present during which Ward was asked to identify a photo of her son’s body. Garsh did not say why she held a hearing outside the jury’s presence, but legal specialists said it is not unusual for witnesses to be questioned before testifying in front of jurors to make sure their testimony will not be prejudicial.
“A judge’s role is to be the gatekeeper,” Weinberg said.
During the hearing, Garsh warned Ward not to cry in front of jurors.
McCauley, his voice raised, said that Ward had been acting with “dignity” throughout the whole trial and could remain calm in front of the jury.
Defense lawyer Michael Fee argued against showing the jury a photo of Lloyd’s body for identification purposes.
“The use of the photo is just plain cruel and unnecessary,” he said.
Garsh ruled that prosecutors could show Ward the photo of her son in front of the jury, but the picture would not be displayed on the courtroom monitors that are visible to the jury.
When the jury was called back in, prosecutors displayed a smiling photo of Lloyd, dressed in the red plaid shirt and red baseball cap he wore the night he was killed.
Garsh’s warning to Ward surprised Gerard T. Leone Jr., the former Middlesex district attorney who now works in private practice at Nixon Peabody in Boston and is following the case.
“I have never seen a judge tell a family member, much less the mother of a person who was killed, that they couldn’t show emotion for a jury” when they are on the witness stand, Leone said. “A judge cannot, and in my estimation should not, try to control every human element in the [context] of a jury trial where someone was murdered.”
Maria Cramer can be reached at maria.cramer@ globe.com. Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.