Good afternoon. I’m Boston criminal defense attorney Ben Urbelis, and I am going to be doing a video blog, providing updates on the Aaron Hernandez first-degree murder trial that’s currently underway. I’ve already received a lot of questions from people about different aspects of the trial that just started yesterday, so I’m here to break it down and simplify it as much as possible and also provide my own take on what I’ve seen.
Yesterday, both sides provided opening statements. Opening statements are not evidence, and the judge explained that to the jury. Opening statements are a chance for each side to provide a roadmap and lay out what their theory of the case is and what they expect the evidence to show. In all criminal cases the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is on the prosecution, and since they have the burden, the prosecution is required to provide an opening statement first.
The opening statement for the prosecution was provided by Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Patrick Bomberg. He started out by painting a picture of Odin Lloyd as a hard-working family man from Boston. This is nothing unique – the prosecution, of course, wants the jury to feel as much sympathy for the victim and his family as possible. What I was looking for from the beginning, however, was a theme or theory of the case. Not only did I not see that at the beginning of the prosecution’s opening, but I didn’t see it anywhere in their entire opening statement. ADA Bomberg went from talking about Odin Lloyd as a person, to jumping into text messages between Odin and Aaron Hernandez, to talking about the other people who were allegedly present at the crime scene on the night in question, to getting straight into all of the facts that the prosecution intended to prove, along with the evidence they would intend to show the jury in the form of forensics, cell phone records, video surveillance, receipts, GPS tracking of the defendants vehicle, etc.
It was clear that ADA Bomberg had a strong grasp on all of the evidence that he would intend to show the jury during the course of the trial, down to the very last minute. He had a very strong command of the defendant’s every move both before he allegedly committed the murder and after he allegedly covered it up. Based upon the prosecutors opening statement, we can expect this trial to be filled with significant, detailed circumstantial evidence.
Now I’ve heard people say that the evidence is so strong, therefore it’s direct evidence. The strongest evidence is not necessarily direct evidence. Let me give you an example. One morning you’re lying in bed and your six-year-old daughter runs up the stairs and hands you the newspaper and says ‘mommy or daddy here’s the paper that I know you want to read, the paper boy just came to the door and handed me this newspaper to give to you.’ Your daughter’s statement that the paperboy handed her that newspaper is direct evidence that the paperboy delivered a newspaper. She saw him, he handed her the paper, she brought it to you and told you that’s what happened. Now let’s say you walk downstairs in the morning, go to the front door, walk out go to your mailbox, and there’s a newspaper there in the mailbox waiting for you. That is circumstantial evidence that the paperboy delivered the paper to your house. It’s not direct evidence because no one specifically saw or heard the paperboy come and deliver the paper. But based upon the fact that you know your paper boy delivers the paper every morning before you get up, and when you went out this particular morning there was a paper in the mailbox, you can come to the reasonable conclusion, based upon the circumstantial evidence, that the paperboy delivered your newspaper that morning.