“My question to you, sir, is: Who are you really?”
So began the defense’s cross-examination on Tuesday of Alexander Bradley, a former friend of Aaron Hernandez and the central witness in the double-murder trial against the former NFL star.
That question from Jose Baez, Hernandez’s defense attorney, provided a telling preview of the often tense and fiery questions posed to Bradley.
Bradley testified on Monday that Hernandez, angry after a man bumped into him and spilled his drink, shot and killed two men outside a Boston nightclub in 2012. But on cross-examination Tuesday, Baez worked to persuade the jury that Bradley was a drug dealer, a violent criminal and a liar whose testimony could not be trusted.
“Mr. Bradley, this whole spilled drink incident is something you’re completely making up, isn’t it?” Baez asked.
Baez is best known for his successful defense in 2011 of Casey Anthony, who was accused of killing her toddler daughter. On Tuesday, he used some of the same flair for the dramatic and demonstrative lawyering in his cross-examination.
At one point in the questioning, Judge Jeffrey Locke sustained an objection to something Baez had asked. Bradley smirked at the reprimand, and Baez took note of his smile.
“You realize two men lost their lives?” Baez said.
The case marks the second major murder trial for Hernandez, the former New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end. Hernandez was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiancée’s sister.
Bradley’s testimony on Monday, in which he directly named Hernandez as the killer of two immigrants from Cape Verde, represented the most significant and detailed account in this second murder trial thus far.
In opening statements, prosecutors positioned Bradley as the star witness and “loose end” that helped solve what had been a cold case. Hernandez’s attorneys have argued that prosecutors have little evidence linking Hernandez to the shooting aside from Bradley’s account.
Bradley was granted immunity for his cooperation in the case, a point Baez noted often. Baez also said Bradley was trying to “extort” money from Hernandez.
In addition, Baez quoted contradictory statements from Bradley in a jailhouse phone call days before he testified to a grand jury in October 2013.
“I don’t know s**t about that s**t,” Bradley said in the call, referring to the 2012 Boston shootings. “They’re just going to ask me about a bunch of s**t I don’t know.”
Bradley testified on Tuesday that he was lying in that phone call, afraid that if he admitted firsthand knowledge of the shooting he would get in trouble.
Bradley makes his case
Over a full day of testimony, Bradley walked through how his close friendship with the NFL star led to a deadly night out on July 16, 2012.
Bradley said that Hernandez, angered by a spilled drink and a laughing smirk from a man at a Boston nightclub, ordered Bradley to drive up next to that man’s vehicle later in the night. From the passenger seat, a gun-wielding Hernandez leaned across Bradley to get the attention of the men in the vehicle.
“Yo, What’s up now, n****s?” Hernandez yelled before shooting five times, according to Bradley.
Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado were killed in the shooting, prosecutors say.
Bradley drove away from the scene, and Hernandez disposed of the gun and shells, according to Bradley. Hernandez also told Bradley not to tell anybody or say anything, Bradley said.
The investigation into the shootings stalled, with no hard leads. A month later, Hernandez signed a five-year contract extension with the Patriots for $40 million.
Still, Hernandez became “extremely paranoid” and believed that police were following him everywhere, Bradley said.
Their close relationship fell apart in February 2013, when they visited Florida to attend a Super Bowl party. When Bradley made an offhand comment about the Boston shootings, Hernandez became upset and standoffish, Bradley said.
Less than 24 hours later, Hernandez shot Bradley between the eyes in an industrial parking lot and left him to die, according to Bradley. Bradley lost his right eye but survived the shooting, and vowed revenge, he testified.
Over the course of almost 500 texts between the two, Bradley promised not to tell police and asked Hernandez for compensation for the shooting.
“u know u did it (and) since u tried 2 end me I will end u if u don’t do what u gotta do,” Bradley wrote in one.