FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) – Another juror was dismissed in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez on Wednesday, marking the second time in two weeks a panelist has been removed from the case.
Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh told jurors after a short session Wednesday morning that they may have noticed another empty seat in the jury box.
"That was for reasons that were entirely personal to that juror," Garsh said. "It has nothing to do with this case."
She did not elaborate.
It was the same explanation Garsh gave to jurors last week when she dismissed another juror. In that instance, Garsh said in court out of the jury's presence that there was evidence the juror had discussed the case in detail and expressed the belief that it would be difficult to convict Hernandez without a murder weapon, which has never been found.
Hernandez is charged in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.
The panel is now made up of 16 jurors, and 12 will ultimately decide Hernandez's fate. Alternates will be selected randomly immediately before deliberations.
Jury selection in the case took several weeks, and more than 1,100 people were in the jury pool.
Wednesday was the first day back in court since Feb. 5. Jurors spent Friday on a police-escorted motor coach tour of various sites important to the case, including Hernandez's home and the crime scene.
On Monday and Tuesday, court was canceled because of snow.
On Tuesday afternoon, the court released Garsh's decision to grant prosecutors' request for immunity for Jenkins, which could compel her to testify or face time behind bars.
Jenkins appeared in court in her usual spot, sitting behind Hernandez. The two smiled at each other, and Hernandez complimented Jenkins on her new hairstyle, then winked at her. She laughed in response.
As Hernandez left court at the end of the session, he whispered, "I love you" to Jenkins.
Testifying on Wednesday were police officers and a firefighter who responded to the scene where Lloyd's body was found. Hernandez's lawyers have tried to portray the investigation as shoddy.
Garsh ended the session for the day at 11 a.m. and said there would be no court Thursday, citing unspecified scheduling issues. The trial was scheduled to resume Friday.