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Aaron Hernandez Gets Prior Killings, Text Messages Tossed Out

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 15, 2014 8:34 AM

Aaron Hernandez's legal team scored a victory Friday after a judge ruled that jurors at his upcoming murder trial will not hear evidence about prior killings or the victim's final text messages.

Judge E. Susan Garsh heard arguments from both sides about allowing this evidence to be admitted before siding with the defense. According to ESPN, Judge Garsh also prohibited prosecutors from introducing evidence of a Florida incident (and accompanying lawsuit) in which Hernandez allegedly shot a man in the face.

Why would the judge throw out this evidence in Hernandez's murder trial?

Lloyd's Final Text Messages

Hernandez is set to stand trial in January for the murder of Odin L. Lloyd, who prosecutors say sent text messages to his sister on the night of his death. According to ESPN, Lloyd's texts included messages like "U saw who I'm with" and referred to the person as "NFL." Prosecutors floated the theory that these texts were a final cry for help, showing Lloyd was afraid for his life or anticipated that Hernandez (the "NFL" person) was going to kill him.

Here's the problem: Without a legal exception, these text messages are inadmissible hearsay. Hearsay evidence is generally prohibited unless it falls under an exception recognized by the court's rules of evidence.

Prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Lloyd's text messages fell under two possible hearsay exceptions:

  • A dying declaration. Lloyd's text messages might have been accepted as a dying declaration if Lloyd believed he was facing "imminent death." Judge Garsh didn't buy that his texts painted that picture.
  • Showing the victim's state of mind. The text messages do give evidence of Lloyd's state of mind (hostility toward Hernandez), but Judge Garsh didn't think it was relevant.

The Boston Globe reports that from Judge Garsh's ruling, the murder victim's state of mind "is relevant to motive only if there is reason to believe the defendant knew of it." And since prosecutors had little evidence to support Hernandez actually seeing the texts, they couldn't be admitted.

Earlier Killings, Shootings

As we blogged about last week, prosecutors wanted to introduce at trial evidence of various "bad acts" allegedly committed by Hernandez, including evidence suggesting he was responsible for two shooting deaths in 2012. Judge Garsh didn't buy that these prior acts were evidence of a specific modus operandi, motive, or pattern by Hernandez, and ruled them inadmissible.

Jury selection for Aaron Hernandez's murder trial is set to begin January 5.

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