Ex-National Football League (NFL) player Aaron Hernandez on Friday pleaded not guilty to murder in connection with the June killing of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, with his lawyer saying that not “one shred” of damning evidence had been presented yet.
At his arraignment in the Superior Court in Fall River, Massachusetts, Hernandez, 23, said “not guilty” as the charges of first-degree murder and five firearms violations were read aloud.
Some members of Lloyd’s family, dressed in Lloyd’s favorite color, purple, broke into tears during the brief hearing.
Hernandez was a star tight end for the New England Patriots, but was cut by the team within hours of his June 26 arrest.
Lloyd’s body had been found nine days earlier in an industrial area near Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Lloyd, 27, had been dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Prosecutors have said that Hernandez and two other men drove Lloyd to the industrial park and shot him five times, twice while he lay helpless on the ground.
A lawyer for Hernandez, Charles Rankin, told reporters after the arraignment that the prosecution’s case was weak.
“Not one shred of evidence has been presented yet, and we feel confident that when evidence is finally presented in a court of law that Aaron will be exonerated,” he said.
Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter disagreed: “Over 500 pages of documents have been released to the press and the public. Those include... returns on search warrants, still photographs from video surveillance... I think that evidence speaks for itself.”
Hernandez is being held without bail, but Superior Court Judge Frances McIntyre granted a request by Hernandez’s attorneys to reserve the right to seek bail in the future. His previous effort to be released on bail was denied.
Hernandez, whose contract with the Patriots had been worth about US$40 million, is being held in the Bristol County Jail. The next pretrial hearing has been set for Oct. 9.
The former Patriots star is also being investigated in connection with a double murder in Boston last year and has been sued by a Connecticut man who has accused Hernandez of shooting him in the face after a night at a Miami strip club in February.
No criminal charges have been filed in either case.