Jury issues delay opening statements in murder trial of ex-New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez

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FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2014 file photo, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, attends a pretrial hearing in Fall River, Mass. Hernandez is accused of murdering semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. A jury is expected to be seated for opening arguments in his murder trial as early as Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. Judge Susan Garsh had cleared 53 potential jurors after individually questioning them to weed out people who are biased, have a hardship or have a valid reason to be excused. Lawyers from both sides will have the chance to eliminate 18 people each from the final pool on Monday for any reason. Eighteen jurors will be seated. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool, File)


FALL RIVER, Massachusetts — Opening statements in the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez were delayed Thursday as the judge sorted out some last-minute jury issues.

One juror was late getting to court, and another juror sent a note to the judge. Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh then began individually questioning jurors.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to killing semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd in 2013. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee. He was found shot to death in an industrial park near Hernandez's North Attleborough home, not far from Gillette Stadium.

Prosecutors have said Hernandez may have showed Lloyd the spot where a 2012 double homicide took place in Boston; Hernandez has since been charged with two counts of murder in that case. Prosecutors suggested Lloyd's knowledge of the 2012 killings was a possible motive in his slaying. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to those killings, too.

Hernandez arrived in court Thursday, with his mother, brother and fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, sitting behind him.

Jenkins has been granted immunity in the case and is listed as a possible prosecution witness.

Lloyd's family was also in court. Jenkins' sister, Shaneah, sat with Lloyd's family.

Opening statements were scheduled to begin Thursday. That comes just days before Hernandez's old team plays in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Hernandez had a $40 million contract as a tight end with the Patriots when he was arrested in June 2013 and charged with murder. Prosecutors say he and two friends, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston, drove him to the industrial park and shot him to death.

Prosecutors have not said who pulled the trigger but said Hernandez orchestrated the killing.

Ortiz and Wallace have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.

The judge has ruled that prosecutors will not be allowed to tell the jury about the 2012 Boston killings.

Garsh must still swear in 18 jurors Thursday before opening statements begin. She has called a pool of backup jurors to come to the courthouse in case any jurors she seated last week are unable to serve.

Six of the 18 jurors will be randomly selected as alternates immediately before deliberations begin.

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