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Judge in Aaron Hernandez's murder trial warns of mistrial risk

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- The judge in former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez's murder trial on Thursday reprimanded a local television station after two jurors reported being followed by one of its trucks, warning the incident could have le...

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Former New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez sits with defense attorney Charles Rankin. REUTERS/Steven Senne

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- The judge in former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez's murder trial on Thursday reprimanded a local television station after two jurors reported being followed by one of its trucks, warning the incident could have led to a mistrial.   The jury has begun its third day of deliberations on whether Hernandez, 25, is guilty of murdering an associate, in the first of two murder trials he faces this year. After the jury in Fall River, Massachusetts, determines whether he killed semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd, he will face a trial in Boston on charges of fatally shooting two Cape Verdean men outside a nightclub in 2012.   Before deliberations began, Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh said that two of the 15 jurors reported they had been followed by a van from a local television station.   "We're at a stage of this case where it is obviously both vital and legally required that absolutely no juror be approached or questioned or followed in any fashion," Garsh said. "It is the court's view that there have to be consequences for that."   Noting that the incident could have provoked a mistrial, Garsh said she would consider excluding the station from further coverage in the courthouse.   Of the 18 people, 12 jurors and six alternates, originally seated in the case, three have already been excused from service.   The former New England Patriots tight end has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers argued in closing statements on Tuesday that he had witnessed the shooting in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, but did not commit it.   Prosecutors contend that Hernandez and two friends, in the early hours of June 17, 2013, picked Lloyd up at his home in Boston and drove him to the industrial park where his body was found riddled with bullets later that day.   During the trial, which began in January and featured more than 130 witnesses, prosecutors showed video footage of Hernandez coming and going from his home around the time of Lloyd's death. Investigators did not recover the .45-caliber Glock pistol that was used to shoot Lloyd.   If convicted of first-degree murder, Hernandez would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. A second-degree murder conviction would allow the possibility of parole after 15 years.   Hernandez had been a rising star in the National Football League with a $41 million contract when he was arrested on June 26, 2013.

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