Prosecutors in a murder case against ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez won't be allowed to tell a jury about the final text messages sent by the victim to his sister, or tell a jury about two other killings with which Hernandez is charged, a judge ruled Friday.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.
Prosecutors say Lloyd sent the messages while in a car with Hernandez and suggested they showed he had become fearful. One said "U saw who I'm with" and another indicated the person was "NFL," referring to Hernandez and said "just so you know."
Defense lawyers called it "rank speculation" that the texts indicated fear and said they were inadmissible.
Judge Susan Garsh agreed with prosecutors saying there was no evidence that Lloyd believed he was about to die.
"The commonwealth has not met its burden of showing by the preponderance of evidence that the statement was made while the victim was under belief of actual imminent death," said Garsh, a Massachusetts Superior Court associate justice, according to Reuters.
Jury selection is scheduled to start Jan. 5. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft have been listed by prosecutors as possible witnesses for the trial.
The judge also ruled Friday that prosecutors may not introduce the shooting of Alexander Bradley, a former associate of Hernandez. Bradley has filed a civil suit against Hernandez that says the ex-player shot him in the face in 2013 after an argument in Florida.
Massachusetts prosecutors and Hernandez's lawyers are arguing about the admissibility of a range of evidence related to the ex-player's other alleged crimes or "bad acts," including the fatal shootings of two Boston men in 2012 after an encounter at a nightclub. Hernandez, who is being held without bail, also has pleaded not guilty in those killings.
His attorneys say evidence about the double homicide and other alleged crimes would risk "undue prejudice" against Hernandez in the Lloyd case and compromise his right to a fair trial.
"It is critical that this trial be about the murder of Odin Lloyd," defense attorney James Sultan said during the hearing Friday.
Prosecutors previously identified a range of so-called bad acts related to Hernandez, including the Boston homicides, firearms found at Hernandez's home and even a photograph obtained from the celebrity gossip website TMZ that depicts Hernandez holding a gun.
The judge ruled the photograph inadmissible.
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