BOSTON – Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez "took pleasure" in gunning down two men in 2012 because he felt disrespected after one of them accidentally spilled his drink at a nightclub, a prosecutor said Thursday during closing arguments at Hernandez's double-murder trial.
But Hernandez's lawyer, Jose Baez, told the jury that the real killer is Hernandez's former friend and the prosecution's star witness, Alexander Bradley. Baez called Bradley a "liar, "perjurer" and "parasite" who got the "deal of a lifetime" from prosecutors after he named Hernandez as the shooter.
The jury was expected to begin deliberations Friday after hearing final instructions on the law from the judge.
Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu, two immigrants from Cape Verde who crossed paths with Hernandez briefly on July 16, 2012. He is also charged with witness intimidation and accused of shooting Bradley in the face seven months later in what prosecutors say was an attempt to silence him as a witness to the earlier shootings.
"You know who the killer is — the same perpetrator who unleashed the same type of violence on the only man who could tell his vicious, awful secret — his former best friend, Alexander Bradley," prosecutor Patrick Haggan said.
Baez, who gained fame when he won an acquittal for Casey Anthony in the death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee, said Bradley's testimony was "riddled with lies," but prosecutors stuck with him as their star witness because they wanted to convict an NFL player.
"Alexander Bradley was their three-legged pony and they were going to ride him to the finish line, no matter what he said," Baez said, pantomiming a jockey riding a racehorse.
Bradley, a convicted drug dealer who is serving a five-year sentence for shooting up a Hartford bar in 2014, testified under a grant of immunity from prosecutors. He said that about two hours after he and Hernandez left the club that night, he was driving when Hernandez saw Furtado and de Abreu stopped at a red light. Bradley said Hernandez leaned across him in the driver's seat and yelled to the men, "Yo, what's up now?" followed by a racial slur. Bradley said Hernandez then opened fire, shooting into the car five times and continuing to pull the trigger after the gun was empty.
"That killer took pleasure in what he did that night. That killer wanted his victims to see it coming," Haggan said.
Relatives of de Abreu and Furtado filled the first two rows of the courtroom during closing arguments. Seated one row behind them was Hernandez's longtime fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez.
Hernandez already is serving life in prison for the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Jenkins Hernandez.
Hernandez, now 27, grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, and played for the Patriots from 2010 to 2012.
About six weeks after Furtado and de Abreu were killed, Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots and went on to play another season before Lloyd was killed. He was cut from the team shortly after he was arrested in Lloyd's killing in June 2013. He was not charged in the 2012 killings until 2014.