After deliberating for more than 35 hours over parts of seven days, listening intently to the testimony of more than 130 witnesses and reviewing more than 400 pieces of evidence, the teary-eyed men and women of the jury exchanged embraces.
Since late January, their work in the Massachusetts murder trial of former NFL star Aaron Hernandez had consumed their lives. It was nothing like “Law & Order.” The days were long and tedious. Now it was over.
“It’s been an incredibly emotional toll on all of us,” Lesa Strachan told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Thursday in the first nationally televised interview with members of the jury.
A day earlier, Strachan, the jury foreperson, announced the first-degree murder conviction in the 2013 shooting death of Hernandez’s onetime friend Odin Lloyd.
Strachan said she was struck by the viciousness of multiple gunshots.
“You shot him once but you kept going and you shot him six times. There’s no need for that and there’s no need to use a gun. Period.”
Before the trial, at least one juror — Rosalie Oliver — hadn’t heard of the 25-year-old defendant who has now gone from a $40 million pro-football contract to a term of life without parole in a maximum-security prison.
But Kelly Dorsey watches the Patriots every Sunday during the football season. She said so on her jury questionnaire.
“I knew of him as a football player, not a person,” she said. It didn’t affect her vote to convict, she said. It didn’t matter that he was a football player, she said. Nor did it matter whether he actually pulled the trigger in the murder.
“To leave your friend on the ground, knowing that he’s not there anymore — he’s either dead or he’s going to die — that’s indifference,” Dorsey said of Hernandez. “He didn’t need to pull the trigger.”
That word — “indifference” — was used multiple times by members of the jury.
Jon Carlson said he was struck by testimony and video evidence that Hernandez and his two friends were sunbathing poolside hours after the slaying, drinking smoothies. Hernandez at times left his then-8-month-old daughter with the two men.
That indifference “surprised a lot of us,” Carlson said.
Lloyd was seen June 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m. with Hernandez and Hernandez’s friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, in a rented silver Nissan Altima. Later that day, a jogger found his body. He had been shot six times, according to prosecutors.
Rosalie Oliver — the juror who hadn’t heard of Hernandez before the trial — said that, for her, the first shot was enough.
“There was no need for the other five,” she said. “One shot for me is cruelty.”
Oliver and other jurors said they were surprised to receive calls from friends congratulating them after the verdict.
“Who won?” she asked “Odin Lloyd didn’t win. (His mother) didn’t bring back her son. Did Mr. Hernandez win? No, because he’s going to serve the rest of his life in jail and he’s 25 years old. The worst part for me is: How about that little girl that’s never going to see her father again?”
Oliver recalled making eye contact with Hernandez at one point during the months-long trial.
“He actually nodded to me one time,” she said. “You come in that room every day and you see this person and it’s hard to come to that decision at the end because — like three months with them — it’s almost like they’re part of you. And then, all of a sudden now, you’ve got to make that decision to either put him away or let him go.”