Judge rules on jury instructions in Hernandez murder trial

Associated Press

FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) — The judge overseeing the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez heard vigorous arguments Friday from prosecutors and the defense on how she should instruct the jury to interpret evidence, including parts of witness testimony.

In particular, defense attorney James Sultan asked Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh to remind the jury that some testimony from Kyle Aspinwall, an employee of firearms manufacturer Glock, had been struck from the record. Sultan said it was the “most important testimony” in the monthslong trial.

Aspinwall told the jury March 11 that he believed that a black object seen in Hernandez’s hand on home surveillance footage was a Glock pistol. That testimony was the most conclusive in the trial that puts a weapon in Hernandez’s hand in the hours after the June 17, 2013, slaying of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.

Aspinwall said he could identify the object based on his knowledge of the pistol’s back strap, magazine well and trigger guard. But Garsh told jurors the following day — after questioning Aspinwall without the jury present — not to consider testimony about characteristics other than the back strap. She also reminded jurors that Aspinwall’s testimony was his opinion.

Garsh agreed to reiterate those two points when she gives jury instructions.

Garsh also ruled Friday that she will instruct jurors that any statements Hernandez made outside the court denying his involvement in the killing should not be considered evidence of his guilt.

Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, testified Monday that Hernandez had told her in the days following the shooting that he was not involved. On Tuesday, New England Patriots team owner Robert Kraft testified that Hernandez — his former star tight end — had told him he was innocent and had an alibi for the night of the killing.

Prosecutors rested their case Thursday after calling 131 witnesses and submitting hundreds of pieces of evidence. The defense is expected to present witnesses and rest Monday.

The jury was not in court Friday. The judge sent them home Thursday with a reminder to be extra vigilant and to not discuss the case over the holiday weekend.

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