Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, who is already serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder, was found not guilty of a double murder this afternoon.
Jurors deliberated first-degree murder charges against Hernandez for more than 40 hours over six days.
The former New England Patriots tight end was accused of shooting two men in 2012 after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on Hernandez at a Boston nightclub.
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Tears of joy: Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, pictured beside defense attorney Ronald Sullivan, was found not guilty of a double murder on Friday
A visibly emotional Hernandez broke down in tears in the courtroom after hearing the verdict after 40 hours of deliberation
Hernandez, center, is hugged by Ronald Sullivan after being found not guilty of murder
Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, center, the fiancee of the former New England Patriots tight end is comforted as she reacts to the double murder acquittal at Suffolk Superior Court Friday
Hernandez’s lawyers said a former Hernandez friend shot the men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, over a botched drug deal.
The 27-year-old Hernandez is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.
About six weeks after Furtado and de Abreu were killed, Hernandez signed a five-year, $40million contract with the Patriots and went on to play another season before Lloyd was killed.
On Friday, Hernandez was acquitted of all charges against him except for possession of a firearm without a license.
Jury forewoman Lindsey Stringer read a statement outside court noting the more than 70 witnesses and over 380 exhibits presented in the case.
‘We based our decision on the evidence presented and the law,’ the statement read.
Hernandez, center, is hugged by defense attorney Ronald Sullivan after being found not guilty of the double murder
Hernandez’s lawyers say a former Hernandez friend shot the men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, over a botched drug deal. An emotional Hernandez is seen above in court at today’s hearing
Victims: Hernandez was accused of shooting dead Safiro Furtado (left) and Daniel de Abreu (right) at a Boston nightclub in 2012
The father of Daniel de Abreu closes his eyes as Hernandez listens to his double murder acquittal after the sixth day of jury deliberations at Suffolk Superior Court Friday
Flanked by the jury, foreperson Lindsey Stringer reads a brief statement after the verdict
Defense attorney Ronald Sullivan responds to a reporter’s question as he stands with former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez’s defense team
The jurors cleared him of three counts of armed assault with intent to murder; one count of assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and one count of witness intimidation.
TIMELINE IN AARON HERNANDEZ’S CASE:
July 16, 2012: Two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, are shot to death in their car as they wait at a red light in Boston’s South End neighborhood.
Aug. 27, 2012: Hernandez signs a five-year, $40million contract with the New England Patriots.
February 2013: An associate, Alexander Bradley, is shot in the face in Florida. Bradley files a lawsuit alleging that Hernandez shot him after they argued at a strip club.
June 17, 2013: The body of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, is found about a mile from Hernandez’s mansion in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
June 26, 2013: Hernandez is arrested on a murder charge in Lloyd’s slaying and later pleads not guilty. The Patriots release him hours after his arrest.
May 15, 2014: Hernandez is indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the shootings of de Abreu and Furtado.
May 28, 2014: Hernandez pleads not guilty to charges in connection with the deaths of de Abreu and Furtado.
Jan. 9, 2015: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in Lloyd’s killing.
April 15, 2015: Hernandez is convicted of first-degree murder; carries a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.
Feb. 14, 2017: Hernandez goes on trial for murder in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
April 7, 2017: The jury begins deliberating.
April 14, 2017: Hernandez acquitted of murder in the 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
The judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison, separate from his existing life sentence, for the firearms conviction.
As the verdict was announced just before 3pm, the 27-year-old Hernandez broke down in tears, covered his face with his heavily tattooed hands and continued weeping quietly.
A few moments later, he looked back at his fiancee and nodded somberly as relatives of the victims sobbed loudly. Defense attorney Ronald Sullivan embraced him.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said the victims’ families were devastated by the verdicts as well as by the defense’s portrayal of the men as ‘gang bangers’ and ‘drug dealers.’
‘These were two hardworking, humble, Cape Verdean immigrants,’ Conley said. ‘It was unnecessary and it was wrong, and it shouldn’t have been done.’
Conley said prosecutors and the families take solace in the fact that Hernandez is serving a life sentence. Prosecutors in the double-murder trial weren’t allowed to mention his conviction in Lloyd’s case.
‘One of the victims’ relatives said, “At least he’s not walking out the door today,”‘ Conley said.
During the trial, the prosecution argued that Hernandez opened fire on the victims’ car on July 16, 2012, because he felt disrespected when one of the men bumped into him and spilled his drink at a nightclub in Boston’s South End neighborhood.
The defense team pointed the finger at Alexander Bradley, a close friend of Hernandez who was with him the night of the shootings.
Hernandez was also acquitted Friday of shooting Bradley in the face months later to try to silence him as a witness.
Hernandez, 27, is already serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, who is the mother of his four-year-old daughter.
Bradley claimed Hernandez became enraged after de Abreu bumped into him while dancing, spilling his drink. He said Hernandez later opened fire on the men’s car as they waited at a stoplight.
Bradley also said Hernandez shot him in the face months later after he made a remark about the earlier shootings. Bradley lost his right eye in the shooting.
Hernandez’s lawyers said it was Bradley – an admitted drug dealer – who shot the men over a drug deal. The defense hammered at Bradley’s credibility, citing his immunity deal with prosecutors to testify against Hernandez, his role as the driver of the car the night of the shootings and his criminal record.
Bradley is serving a five-year prison term in Connecticut for firing shots at a Hartford nightclub in 2014.
The 27-year-old Hernandez is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd
Hernandez (right) turns to look toward his fiancee Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez (left) during Friday’s emotional hearing
His fiancee Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez is supported in the courtroom as the verdict is read out
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley, right, said the victims’ families were devastated by the verdicts
Defense attorney Ronald Sullivan Jr said on Friday the jury was able to see through the ‘smoke and mirrors’ that made up the state’s case. He described Hernandez as a ‘very good young man who happened to hang out with a very bad guy in Alexander Bradley.’
Conley said Friday that prosecutors would not go after Bradley in the killings because they believe they already charged the right person.
‘Our theory of the case stands,’ Conley said. ‘In our minds, (the evidence) points inescapably to Aaron Hernandez.’
Prosecutors introduced evidence at trial that Hernandez got a tattoo that memorialized the double slaying. California tattoo artist David Nelson testified that Hernandez requested an image of a revolver with the gun barrel facing forward. Hernandez wanted five bullets visible in the cylinder of the gun and one cylinder empty, Nelson said.
Authorities said Hernandez fired five shots from a revolver into the car carrying de Abreu and Furtado.
Hernandez’s defense team in the double-murder trial included Jose Baez, known for winning an acquittal for Florida mom Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter. Baez wasn’t in court Friday; Sullivan said he was dealing with a medical issue.
Hernandez is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd, pictured on the screen in the courtroom in January 2015
Hernandez 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, $40million 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 killed in June 2013. He was not charged in the 2012 killings until 2014.
In his first trial, jurors deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before convicting him of murder.
In the wake of Hernandez’s acquittal Friday, the state’s highest court will automatically review his earlier murder conviction in the Odin Lloyd case.