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Former NFL Player Aaron Hernandez Sentenced To Life In Prison

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Aaron Hernandez, a former tight end for the New England Patriots, was found guilty today of first degree murder. The judge immediately sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Craig LeMoult was in court today and has covered the case for WGBH. Craig, welcome to the program.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Thank you.

CORNISH: The victim was named Odin Lloyd, and his family was in the courtroom. The family of Aaron Hernandez was in the courtroom. And it seemed very emotional. Talk about what happened.

LEMOULT: It was emotional when the verdict came out. Hernandez's fiancee, whose name Shayanna Jenkins, was sobbing. She'd actually testified earlier in the trial. Prosecutors said she had gotten rid of the murder weapon at Hernandez's request. And then across the courtroom was her sister, Shaneah, and she was the victim, Odin Lloyd's girlfriend; that's how Lloyd and Hernandez knew each other. And throughout the trial, there's been this sort of weird dynamic of these two sisters on opposite ends of the case. Shaneah was surrounded by Lloyd's family, who have been a consistent presence in the courtroom throughout the trial. And, of course, they were also very emotional.

CORNISH: What kind reaction was there from Aaron Hernandez?

LEMOULT: Not much of any really - he was pretty much stone-faced as he waited for the jury to read the verdict. And then when they said he was guilty of first-degree murder, his expression just didn't change at all. It was pretty much the same emotionless demeanor that he showed throughout the trial when the jury was present in the room.

CORNISH: Craig, Odin Lloyd's mother actually spoke. She gave a statement before sentencing. Tell us what she had to say.

LEMOULT: Yes, she spoke powerfully about how much she loved her son, how much she missed him, what a wonderful person he was. And remarkably, she had this to say about the people who killed him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

URSULA WARD: I forgive the hands of the people that had a hand in my son's murder, either before or after. And I pray and hope that someday everyone out there will forgive them also.

LEMOULT: Again, that's the victim's mother, Ursula Ward. And her daughter was asked if she also forgive Hernandez. And she said she's not as strong as her mom is, but she said maybe someday she will be.

CORNISH: Craig, afterwards, the jurors actually got together and held basically a press conference. How did they feel about the verdict?

LEMOULT: Yes, they were there to give a statement, and they wound up taking questions. And it was actually kind of a funny feel to that press conference, because, I think, they were all just really relieved it was over. They seemed like a pretty cohesive group, and they actually laughed about a number of moments throughout the trial. They said they felt strongly that they'd made the right decision.

During the trial, Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified that Hernandez told him shortly after the killing that he hoped that the time of the murder would come out, because he was in a club then. But the jury members said they didn't understand how he could know where he was if the time of the murder hadn't come out. They said they were also really surprised when the defense acknowledged in their closing argument that Hernandez was at the scene of the murder. And they didn't buy the claim that two other men charged in the murder killed Lloyd when they were high on PCP and that Hernandez was in shock and didn't know what to do about it.

CORNISH: What's next for Aaron Hernandez?

LEMOULT: Well, he faces life in prison without parole, but he's actually not done with court yet. He's facing charges in a 2012 double murder in Boston. That trial is being rescheduled right now, and he's actually also facing a civil lawsuit from a former friend who says Hernandez shot him in the face when he was in Florida.

CORNISH: That's Craig LeMoult of WGBH. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

LEMOULT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.