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Hernandez Trial: Defense Witness Disputes Prosecution's Theory

Hernandez is on trial in the shooting deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado

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    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts rested its case against former Patriot Aaron Hernandez Monday. Now, closing arguments in the double murder case could begin later in the week.

    (Published Monday, April 3, 2017)

    Lawyers for former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez began presenting their defense at his double-murder trial Monday with a fan who said Hernandez was polite and calm the night he is accused of gunning down two men after a brief encounter at a Boston nightclub.

    Hernandez's legal team began calling witnesses after prosecutors rested their case Monday.

    The prosecution’s entire case hinges on the theory that Hernandez, enraged that Daniel De Abreu spilled a drink on him, retaliated two hours after the nightclub encounter by opening fire on Abreu’s car, killing him and Safiro Furtado.

    But when one of Hernandez's lawyers asked Lynn resident Antoine Salvador, a psychology doctoral student who met Hernandez inside Cure Lounge, if the NFLer looked angry that night, Salvador replied, "Not at all." 

    Salvador said that he asked Hernandez to pose with him for a photo. Hernandez initially politely declined his request, according to Salvador's testimony, but agreed after he told Hernandez it was his birthday.

    Salvador said he later saw Hernandez outside the club, about 20 minutes before the shootings. He said he thanked Hernandez for the photo, and Hernandez replied, "No problem. Have a good night."

    Under cross-examination by the prosecution, Salvador admitted that Hernandez's defense team helped him with the timeline by showing him surveillance videos.

    Monday began with testimony from the prosecution's final witness, an investigator with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office. But the prosecution rested its case shortly before 10:30 a.m. after 22 days of testimony.

    Hernandez's defense team called several witnesses on Monday, including the manager of a Florida strip club, a Boston street sweeper, a police officer and two people who were at the nightclub where the confrontation that allegedly led to the killings occurred. 

    Jurors also heard for the first time from street sweeper Warren McMaster, who testified that he went through the crime scene shortly after shots were fired and saw a woman - not a man - hanging out of the sunroof of an SUV next to the victims' BMW.

    "They might have been calling for help or recording or whatever," he said. "It looked like they had something in their hand."

    Judge Jeffrey Locke told jurors that they could hear closing arguments in the case as early as Thursday. He said no defense witnesses were available to testify Tuesday, but additional witnesses will testify Wednesday.

    Prosecutors say Hernandez killed de Abreu and Furtado in July 2016 because he felt disrespected after de Abreu bumped into him and spilled his drink. Salvador said he did not see anyone bump into Hernandez.

    Hernandez's attorneys have pointed the finger at the state's star witness, a former friend of Hernandez who was with him the night of the shootings. The defense claims Alexander Bradley shot the men in a drug dispute. 

    Bradley testified that Hernandez took out a gun and opened fire on the men's car at a stoplight two hours after the nightclub encounter. Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation and accused of shooting Bradley to silence him.

    Last week, Hernandez's fiancée testified she learned to keep quiet and "not to ask any questions" in certain situations. She also claimed to have no recollection of the call phone records show Hernandez made to her on the night he allegedly murdered Furtado and de Abreu.

    Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez's testimony for the prosecution came under the grant of immunity. Jenkins-Hernandez, who has a 4-year-old daughter with Hernandez, said she took his name in 2015.

    Hernandez is already serving a life sentence in the 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the Jenkins-Hernandez's sister. 

    Alysha Palumbo and Marc Fortier contributed to this report.