BOSTON (Reuters) - Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had often told friends he felt disrespected while partying at Boston nightclubs before gunning down two strangers after one spilled a drink on him, prosecutors said at the start of his second murder trial.
The 27-year-old former athlete, already serving a life sentence after being convicted of murdering an acquaintance in 2013, has denied shooting two Cape Verdean nationals a year earlier.
But prosecutors said the killings, which came hours after the spilled drink when Hernandez followed the two men after the club closed for the night, was the premeditated act of a celebrity who had tucked a gun into his car’s engine block before leaving his home that night.
“Two men’s lives were snuffed out in a hail of gunfire,” said prosecutor Patrick Haggan, of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.
He described the victims, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, as hardworking recent immigrants to the United States. A friend tried to talk Hernandez out of attacking the men, arguing that he should ignore the incident given his fame, Haggan said.
“The seeds of this murder were planted months, if not a year, before,” Haggan said. “In the months before there would be multiple times the defendant would express the fact that he felt tried, he felt tested, he felt disrespected, he felt threatened while he was out.”
Hernandez’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, is due to make his opening statement later on Wednesday.
Prosecutors are expected to present an array of evidence during the trial including photos of two of Hernandez’s many tattoos, images of guns that they contend are references to the double murder and the later nonfatal shooting of a friend.
Hernandez’s attorneys have indicated in court papers that they may call experts on use of marijuana in the National Football League and on the relationship between marijuana and violence. Hernandez’s history of using marijuana and sometimes the stimulant PCP was detailed during his first trial.
The trial is expected to last four to six weeks.
Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation for shooting his friend Alexander Bradley in the face on a trip to Florida, after the man mentioned the murders.
Hernandez had a $41 million contract when he was arrested at his North Attleborough, Massachusetts, home in June 2013 and charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, an acquaintance. The team dropped him within hours of his arrest.
Editing by Matthew Lewis