By MICHELLE R. SMITH, Associated Press
FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) _ The judge overseeing the murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez spent around 20 minutes Tuesday morning individually questioning a juror outside the hearing of the public assembled in the courtroom.
It was not clear why they were questioning the woman or what she was being asked. Prosecutors, the defense team and Hernandez huddled around her as Bristol County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh murmured questions.
Proceedings began last week but were suspended Monday when a snowstorm hit. Tuesday was the first day back at the trial since the Patriots won the Super Bowl on Sunday. The judge told jurors they were allowed to watch the game but had to leave the room or distance themselves if Hernandez’s name came up.
There are 18 jurors. Six of those will be randomly chosen as alternates immediately before deliberations begin.
The former Patriots standout is accused of the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating his fiance’s sister.
Hernandez, 25, had a $40 million contract with the Patriots when he was arrested.
The Tuesday morning session began with a lengthy private sidebar conversation among the judge, prosecutors and the defense. After about 20 minutes, the juror was called in.
After questioning the juror, Garsh sent her out of the courtroom. The judge instructed a court officer to tell jurors she was considering a legal question, then said she had considered a prosecution request to allow Hernandez to be present at all sidebar conferences. She reiterated a previous decision that said he would not be allowed to attend sidebar conferences on evidentiary issues but would on issues such as possible juror bias.
Garsh then called for a short break and said the court would take up some issues outside the hearing of the jury when the session resumes.
In a separate murder case that has yet to go to trial, Hernandez was charged last year in Boston with killing two men in 2012 after someone spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. The judge has ruled that prosecutors in the Lloyd case cannot tell the jury about those slayings.
Hernandez faces life imprisonment if convicted of murdering Lloyd, a semipro football player.
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