In the 15th minute of a 90-minute final argument for client Aaron Hernandez, defense attorney James Sultan told jurors that prosecutors who want Hernandez found guilty of killing Odin Lloyd wanted them to fill in gaps of evidence against Hernandez with "guesswork, speculation and imagination."
The problem for Hernandez is that prosecutors, in their final argument Tuesday, filled in those gaps with surprisingly solid explanations that could lead jurors to easily convict Hernandez.
The primary gaps in the prosecution's case against Hernandez have been the lack of a murder weapon and difficulty in establishing a motive for the killing of Lloyd in June 2013. Lead prosecutor William McCauley managed to produce for the jury solutions to both problems, though, in a presentation densely packed with nuggets of testimony from 129 witnesses who testified in the case.
And yet a conviction of the former New England Patriots tight end is by no means a certainty. Even with McCauley's impressive weaving of facts indicating guilt, Sultan asked the jury some tough questions that could prolong the deliberations or even produce enough doubt among a juror or two that would cause a deadlock, a clear win for Hernandez.
McCauley's argument came in bursts of rhetoric, many of them incomplete sentences. His presentation may not look good transcribed on paper, but it worked well before the jury as he laced together fact after fact, witness after witness, showing an impressive recall and analysis of the witnesses and more than 400 exhibits.
On the gun issue, McCauley and the prosecution team used video from the Hernandez security system to show Hernandez with a gun in his hand both two hours before the murder and 10 minutes after it. With defense lawyers fighting them at every point of the video presentation, even suggesting that the video had been somehow altered, prosecutors used still photographs pulled from the video that clearly showed a gun. With a prototype Glock .45-caliber gun in his hand, a Glock executive showed the resemblance between the actual gun and the gun in the video.
Even Sultan admitted that the object in the video and the photos "could be a gun."
McCauley added to the power of the gun photos in his final argument by suggesting that the gun was clearly in the house on the night of the murder, but the police were unable to find it in two searches of the house.
"You saw the gun go into the house," McCauley told the jury, referring to video of Hernandez with the gun in his hand in his driveway and in his house. "You saw him walking around in the house with it like it was a trophy, but where did it go?"
Hernandez's fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, removed the gun from the house, McCauley told the jury. "It goes out in a big box in a trash bag, and then, on the most unusual day in anyone's life -- there had been a murder -- she cannot remember where she put the big box. Is it a coincidence that she cannot recall the location of the Dumpster? Is that credible?"
Jenkins, who was a reluctant prosecution witness nearly two weeks ago, sat in the front row of the courtroom on Tuesday as McCauley shredded her veracity and explained how Hernandez "used her in his cover-up."
Explaining what could have motivated Hernandez to "orchestrate" the murder, McCauley told the jury that Lloyd was a source of marijuana for Hernandez and that Lloyd had not treated him with the respect he'd demanded. Further, Lloyd suddenly knew too much about Hernandez's lifestyle.
A woman from a nightclub told the jury three weeks ago that Hernandez had told her she "was lucky that he was paying attention to me." McCauley used that description of Hernandez's arrogance to argue that he would have been insulted if Lloyd left him at the club to talk to his other friends.
Using video from cameras inside a Boston nightclub and on the street outside, the prosecution showed an angry Hernandez staring at Lloyd as he talked to other friends, angrily waving off Lloyd out as the club closed.
"What did Odin do to cause this reaction?" McCauley asked. "It was enough for Hernandez to go out to his car [parked in a VIP spot on the street] and grab a gun." A security guard at a nearby hotel testified that he saw Hernandez grab the gun and put it in his waistband.
Later, McCauley reminded the jury, Hernandez and Lloyd drove with the Hernandez family babysitter and her friend to Hernandez's secret apartment in Franklin, Massachusetts. "Odin knew about 'the spot' [the apartment], the babysitter, and all the marijuana. He knew too much about Hernandez."
McCauley, in his argument on a motive for the killing, was responding to the defense assertion that Hernandez and Lloyd were friends, and Hernandez had no reason to kill Lloyd. "You heard [defense attorney Michael Fee] use the term 'friends' 32 times in his opening statement," but "they were not friends." The fact that Lloyd supplied drugs to Hernandez and rolled blunts for him does not make them "friends," McCauley insisted.
He also pointed out that all three men in the car with Hernandez on the night of the murder (Lloyd, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace) were drug dealers who had supplied Hernandez with marijuana.
Sultan, who presented his defense of Hernandez in deliberate, occasionally eloquent terms, left the jury with four questions that he hoped would lead them to find "reasonable doubt" that Hernandez had killed or orchestrated the Lloyd killing.
Why would Hernandez kill Lloyd, Sultan asked, in an open field only one mile from his home? McCauley answered that it was a "perfect place for what Hernandez thought would be the perfect murder. No eyewitnesses. No traffic. Nobody."
Sultan asked why, if Hernandez killed Lloyd, he had left Lloyd's phone in Lloyd's pocket along with keys to a Chevrolet Suburban that Hernandez had rented? McCauley responded that Hernandez was confident that "no one would ever think that he would have done something like this."
The third question from Sultan was why would Hernandez bring along two potential witnesses (Ortiz and Wallace)? In one of his finest moments, McCauley described the killing shot by shot for the jury, explaining that Hernandez, who was driving the car, fired the first shot while Lloyd was still in the back seat. McCauley reminded the jury that fingerprints from both Ortiz and Wallace were found on the Lloyd passenger door, indicating that they were pulling Lloyd from the car. McCauley then described each of the next five shots using the trail of shell casings and concluding with a description of the final two shots into Lloyd's chest as he lay dying on the ground.
Sultan's final question was why would Hernandez leave a blunt at the scene that contained DNA from both Hernandez and Lloyd? McCauley did not respond to the question
Undoubtedly hoping to convince at least one juror that there is doubt about Hernandez's guilt, Sultan told the jurors: "Each of you has a voice. There are no professional jurors here. Don't be shy. Participate in the deliberation, and speak up."
Without a murder weapon and with murky evidence on motive, this was a difficult case for the prosecution. But McCauley used the exhaustive and relentless investigation by his team of prosecutors and police officers as a foundation for a presentation to the jury on Tuesday that seems likely to lead to a conviction.