Moments before testifying at the murder trial of her son’s alleged killer Wednesday, Ursula Ward’s voice cracked when she was asked by a prosecutor to identify a photo of her son’s body.
Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh told Ward that it is “very, very important” for her to control her emotions on the witness stand once the jury returned to the Massachusetts courtroom. The judge had to rule on what photos could be shown to the victim’s mother in the presence of the jury.
“You are not to cry,” the judge said.
“Yes, your honor,” Ward replied during her brief appearance as a prosecution witness in the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, 25, pleaded not guilty in the 2013 killing of Lloyd, 27, a former semipro football player who dated the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Before Ward took the stand, defense lawyer Michael Fee objected to admitting the photo of Lloyd as evidence and showing it to the victim’s mother, saying it was “cruel and unnecessary” and aimed at eliciting emotion.
“This woman, the mother of Odin Lloyd, has handled herself with plenty of restraint and dignity on the stand,” prosecutor William McCauley told the judge before the jury returned.
Garsh allowed the photo to be shown to Ward but not projected on a monitor for the jury to see.
When the jury came back, Ward remained composed as she testified that Lloyd was her oldest child and that he played football and basketball in high school, but didn’t go to college because she couldn’t afford it.
Ward, who had twice walked out of court sobbing when photos of her son were shown, calmly recounted that Lloyd rode his bicycle 20 miles to a landscaping job, that he played semi-pro football for the Boston Bandits and that she last saw him alive on Father’s Day 2013.
“I just saw his beautiful pink gums smiling at me across the street,” she said.
Ward then showed no emotion when she identified two photos of her son — one of Lloyd after his death, another one of him standing in front of a neighbor’s home, wearing a cap and carrying a backpack.
“My son,” Ward said after seeing the first photo.
Hernandez looked at the second photo on the court monitor. That photo was shown to the jury.
The defense did not cross-examine Ward.
On Tuesday, a female juror was dismissed for talking about the case.
The juror had said it would be difficult to convict the ex-player without a murder weapon and discussed inadmissible evidence, Garsh noted.
The judge dismissed the juror after ordering the public out of court for a hearing that included defense lawyers, prosecutors, witnesses and the juror.
The closed-door session was “no broader than necessary to protect Hernandez’s right to a fair trial,” Garsh said.
After the hearing, Garsh also said there was “credible evidence” that the dismissed juror had expressed interest in being part of the Hernandez jury and had attended more Patriots games than the juror admitted on a questionnaire.
“The juror’s recollection of conversations is not supported by the credible evidence,” the judge said.
The juror’s presence on the jury “posed a substantial risk” to the fairness of the trial, she said, and the dismissal was necessary in “the best interest of justice.”
Shaneah Jenkins, 23, who was dating Lloyd at the time of his death, Tuesday broke into tears when she recalled a call from a state trooper with word that “Odin was dead.”
Her sister, Shayanna, is Hernandez’s fiancee and mother of his child.
Shaneah Jenkins testified that she later visited her sister and saw Hernandez, who placed his hand on her shoulder to console her.
Hernandez told her “he’s been through this death thing before and it would all get better with time,” she testified.
After Hernandez left the home, Shaneah Jenkins testified, her sister Shayanna kept receiving cell phone calls and text messages. Shaneah Jenkins said her sister seemed “secretive,” her responses “very short.”
Shayanna Jenkins would go to the basement to continue the conversations, her sister testified.
One time, Shaneah Jenkins told the jury, her sister went down to the basement with what appeared to be a new garbage bag folded in her hand.
Shayanna later left the house, returned and asked to borrow her sister’s car, Shaneah Jenkins testified.
The case has divided the Jenkins sisters, who sit on opposite sides of the courtroom — Shaneah with Lloyd’s mother and Shayanna with Hernandez’s family.
Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg has told the jury that Hernandez not only orchestrated the killing, but also participated in it and covered it up.
Bomberg summed up the prosecution’s largely circumstantial case, telling the jury that Hernandez and his associates killed Lloyd and then “took evidence with them and tried to and, in some cases, were successful in destroying evidence.”
The three picked up Lloyd and drove to a secluded area where he was shot six times and killed, Bomberg said.
A marijuana blunt found near Lloyd’s body had traces of both his DNA and that of Hernandez, Bomberg said. Hernandez’s DNA also was found on a .45-caliber shell casing found in a car he had rented.
A footprint at the industrial park where Lloyd’s body was found matched sneakers worn by Hernandez, the prosecutor said.
The defense said the one-time NFL star worth $40 million was targeted by police and prosecutors in the death of the semipro football player because of celebrity status.
Hernandez “never had a chance” as authorities zeroed in, Fee told the jury.
Garsh said the jury may visit the crime scene on Friday.
Two alleged accomplices, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, have pleaded not guilty and will be tried separately.