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A defense lawyer for Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end on trial for murder, told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday that they shouldn't convict "an innocent man."
"This is a terrible case," attorney James Sultan said. "Don't compound that tragedy by convicting an innocent man."
Hernandez was present for the killing of Odin Lloyd, the man he is accused of murdering, Sultan acknowledged for the first time Tuesday. But he said his client didn't participate in the murder.
"He was a 23-year-old kid who witnessed a shocking killing, committed by someone he knew. He didn't know what to do, so he just put one foot in front of the other," he told jurors.
Prosecutors say that on June 17, 2013, Hernandez and a couple of friends went to Boston to pick up Lloyd, then drove him to an industrial park in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, and killed him.
Surveillance video at Hernandez's home shortly before the shooting shows him holding what appears to be a gun, and a joint near Lloyd's body had Hernandez and Lloyd's DNA on it.
Sultan said the two friends killed Lloyd, who was dating Hernandez's fiancee's sister and was a friend of Hernandez.
"I ask you to focus carefully on what you know about Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz," he said. Both men have pleaded not guilty, and they will be tried later.
Sultan urged jurors to ignore the media attention that has been cast on the trial, which has lasted for more than two months and included testimony from 135 witnesses.
"You, the jurors, are going to decide this case. No one else," Sultan said. "It's up to you, the jurors, to decide whether the prosecution has proven this case beyond a reasonable doubt."
Sultan argued Tuesday that prosecutors left "gaping holes" in their argument about Hernandez and Lloyd, future brothers-in-law who "shared a passion, a passion for marijuana."
"The investigation was infected with bias," Sultan said.
Assistant District Attorney William McCauley, the lead prosecutor, shot back at that in his closing arguments, telling jurors to examine all the evidence presented.
"I'm asking you to look at the evidence. The evidence tells the story of what happened," he said. "He committed that crime."
The case now goes to jurors to deliberate.