FALL RIVER — The night before Odin L. Lloyd was found dead in a North Attleborough industrial yard, a seemingly carefree Aaron Hernandez smoked marijuana and drank with a group of friends at a Providence bar.
Hernandez, then a tight end for the New England Patriots who had recently been signed to a $40 million contract extension, treated his fiancée and two other couples to 11 shots of Hennessy, such drinks as Sex on the Beach and Grey Goose vodka, beer, and wings at the South Street Cafe, a restaurant in downtown Providence. For nearly three hours, the joyous-looking group joked, laughed, and drank on June 16, 2013, Father’s Day.
“Just a group of people having a casual time, food, and drinks,” said Kelly Rose Belanger, who was the manager of the bar at the time. Hernandez was chided at one point by the restaurant staff after he was caught smoking marijuana outside the bar. He apologized and put away the drug, Belanger testified Thursday.
Hernandez left just after midnight – after settling the $243 tab with his Visa card and leaving a $30 tip for the server. Two hours later, surveillance footage of a gas station in Canton caught him pumping gas into a rented Nissan Altima then walking jauntily, almost dancing – his arms raised high in the air — into the gas station to buy a cigar and bubble gum.
Jurors in a Bristol Superior courtroom viewed the bar receipt – which showed that Hernandez got his bill at 12:18 a.m. – and watched the surveillance video from the gas station, which showed him about 12 miles from Boston at 2:10 a.m. The timeline helped prosecutors establish that Hernandez had time to get to Dorchester to pick up Lloyd at his Fayston street home. Bristol prosecutors have said Hernandez and two other men – Carlos Ortiz and Earnest Wallace – then took Lloyd to North Attleborough, where he was shot five times.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. Ortiz and Wallace will be tried separately on the same charges.
The surveillance video did more than let prosecutors establish a timeline. In a case where the evidence is largely circumstantial, showing images of Hernandez looking gleeful less than an hour before Lloyd was killed is expected to help prosecutors, especially if they can present evidence that suggests Hernandez knew something bad would soon befall Lloyd, said Edward Schwartz, a jury consultant at DecisionQuest, a Waltham-based litigation consulting firm.
“The ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard is a moving target. The greater the extent you can paint the defendant as a bad guy, the less demanding the jury is going to be,” Schwartz said. Hernandez’s “generally sort of cavalier attitude is going be seen as a negative by jurors.”
Showing the small tip is another way to cast Hernandez as narcissistic, he said. “The prosecution is painting him as a very selfish person who did not properly value other people or care enough about what other people felt or would go through,” Schwartz said. “It’s just one more shade added to the portrait of Hernandez.”
Prosecutors also presented a series of crime scene investigators who testified about myriad photographs taken of tire tracks left at the industrial yard, the tires of the Nissan Altima, and footprints left at the scene.
Prosecutors told the jury during opening statements that they will prove that the tracks match the tires of the car driven by Hernandez and the footprints match sneakers worn by Hernandez that night, but they have yet to present witnesses to make those connections.
Maria Cramer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.