FALL RIVER — Jurors in the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez viewed video evidence Friday that prosecutors say puts the victim in a car with the athlete about an hour before the slaying.
The footage showed the victim, Odin L. Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester, getting into the back seat of a Nissan Altima that pulled up to his Fayston Street home around 2:30 a.m. on June 17, 2013.
Prosecutors say Hernandez was behind the wheel and drove the rented Altima to a North Attleborough industrial park, where Lloyd was shot several times in a secluded area near Hernandez’s home.
Hernandez, 25, and two alleged accomplices have pleaded not guilty to murder charges in Lloyd’s death. The other men will be tried separately, and the government is relying on forensic and circumstantial evidence — including DNA and video surveillance — to link Hernandez to the slaying.
Defense attorneys say authorities have badly mishandled evidence and have presented an incomplete narrative to the jury. They have also suggested that after Lloyd heard from Hernandez in the hours before the murder, he prepared for a late-night outing, similar to an after-hours gathering he attended a couple of days earlier at a Franklin apartment that Hernandez leased.
On Friday, in an apparent effort to bolster that argument, the defense played different video clips that appeared to show Lloyd pulling out of his driveway in an SUV around 1:30 a.m. and returning just before 2:15 a.m., roughly 20 minutes before he was shown getting into the Altima.
The video footage that both sides played came from security cameras attached to the house of a neighbor, Jose Lopez, who lived across the street from Lloyd.
Other testimony Friday centered on a shell casing and chewing gum that prosecutors say ties Hernandez to the crime.
Government witnesses have said Hernandez left the casing in the Altima when he returned it to an Enterprise rental car office shortly after the murder, and an investigator later pulled the casing out of a dumpster behind the business. Blue gum was stuck to the casing, and Hernandez bought blue-colored gum en route to Lloyd’s residence, witnesses have said.
State Police Sergeant Paul Baker, who pulled the items from the bin, testified Friday that he wore gloves and that he has gone into dumpsters in prior cases to gather evidence.
“Is that accepted practice in your business?” prosecutor William McCauley asked.
“Yes,” Baker said.
James Sultan, a defense lawyer, was unconvinced, implying during cross examination that Baker tainted the evidence by laying it in the back of a State Police pickup truck.
“Did you ever hear of evidence bags, Sergeant Baker?” Sultan asked.
Baker said the casing and gum were placed in evidence bags when crime scene specialists arrived, and he told McCauley that it was impossible to ensure the area was completely free of any contamination.
“It’s not a sterile environment to begin with, trash,” Baker said.
Also Friday, McCauley clashed with Judge E. Susan Garsh — out of the jury’s presence — over text messages that Lloyd exchanged with his sister shortly before he was killed. Garsh ruled before trial that prosecutors could not show jurors the messages, which, according to authorities, demonstrated that Lloyd feared he was in danger.
Now, prosecutors want the jury to be told that Lloyd and his sister communicated during the roughly 20-minute period before his death, without detailing the content of the text messages, to show that Lloyd was still alive when the Altima reached the industrial yard at 3:23 a.m.
“I would request that [the defense] at least stipulate to the four text messages,” McCauley said, his voice rising.
But Garsh, whose voice also rose during the exchange, said the jury could only be told that Lloyd was alive at 3:23 a.m.
“I have ruled,” Garsh said. “There will be no questions of [Lloyd’s sister] at all” about the texts.
Prosecutors delayed calling Lloyd’s sister to testify until they determine how to respond to Garsh’s order. The trial is set to resume Monday.