Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder and weapons charges in a 2013 killing for which PCP use allegedly played a role. Hernandez, who’d pleaded not guilty to the execution-style slaying, was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
A Massachusetts jury found Hernandez, once among the finest tight ends in the NFL, guilty in the June 2013 shooting death of former friend and semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, 27. Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancé, was found shot six times in an industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro, Mass.
As the verdict was announced, Hernandez was handcuffed in the Bristol County courtroom – less than an hour from the Patriots’ Gillette Stadium. While the words and crimes were read aloud, the former all-pro could be seen mouthing, “You’re wrong,” in television video of the proceedings.
Hernandez, 25, still faces trial for a pair of drive-by shooting murders outside a Boston nightclub. Before the Lloyd murder case trial was underway, the prosecution moved to block any expert testimony presented by the defense regarding PCP use by co-defendants Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz – who will stand trial later for their alleged role in Lloyd’s murder.
The judge allowed the defense to call Dr. David J. Greenblatt, who gave testimony that PCP “can cause violent behavior” without warning and that there’s a history of violence linked to those under the influence of the street drug, also called angel dust.
Defense attorneys suggested that the co-defendants carried out Lloyd’s murder while on a PCP-powered violent high. Yet questioned by assistant district attorney Patrick Bomberg, Greenblatt conceded that he’d neither examined nor made a PCP psychosis diagnosis of anyone suspected in Lloyd’s murder.
What Is PCP?
PCP is a powerful hallucinogenic street drug that seemed to all but vanish since its violent heyday in the 1970s. But a report by Promises Behavioral Health following Hernandez’s arrest found that angel dust is making a bit of a comeback. While angel dust has been overshadowed by the ravages of cocaine and methamphetamine addictions in recent decades, the hallucinogen – known for making its users aggressive, paranoid, even psychotic – has recently staged a resurgence in pockets of larger American cities, says one of law enforcement’s foremost PCP authorities.
And Hernandez was said to be part of the new wave of users. In a widely read report in Rolling Stone magazine, about the time Hernandez signed a $40-million contract with the Patriots in August 2012, he began habitually using PCP. It came at a time of escalating bad behavior that led to Lloyd being shot to death. It was also a stunning disgrace of a promising football star who helped earn the Patriots a Super Bowl bid before his arrest.
Did PCP Play a Role in the Slaying?
“Aaron’s out of his mind,” an unnamed Hernandez family friend told Rolling Stone. “He’s been twisted on dust now for more than a year, which is when all of this crazy s— started.”
Some sports writers questioned parts of the Rolling Stone expose. But not that Hernandez was a heavy PCP user. Said the Boston Globe:
“The revelation that Hernandez was a heavy PCP user is interesting and believable; his alleged accomplice, Carlos Ortiz, did tell his probation officer in May that he used PCP and several other drugs on a daily basis.”
What remained a question was how he got away with using drugs in the NFL. Added the Boston Globe sports piece: “Hernandez could easily get away with a drug habit. Per NFL rules, players are tested for street drugs (cocaine, marijuana, total morphine and codeine, opioids, hydrocodone, oxycodone, PCP, MDMA) just once a year, between April 20 and Aug. 9. However, it’s hard to imagine Hernandez being a heavy PCP user during the season — you’d think his teammates and coaching staff would notice something.”