Prosecutors to Aaron Hernandez's Fiancee: Testify or Go To Jail
Would you rather go to jail or give evidence that could put your fiance in jail?
This is the impossible questions Shayanna Jenkins, fiancee of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, must wrestle with. Hernandez is charged with murder for the shooting death of Odin Lloyd. The prosecution seems to think that Jenkins is a key witness for their case and want to compel her to testify. If she refuses, she could face jail time, the Hartford Courant reports.
Why is her testimony so important, and can she refuse?
Consciousness of Guilt
In Massachusetts, prosecutors can argue that a defendant had a "consciousness of guilt" if he intentionally hid or destroyed evidence or got someone else to do so. The jury can then consider the "consciousness of guilt" to determine actual guilt.
In this case, prosecutors believe that Hernandez told Jenkins to destroy the couple's surveillance system, and to hide the murder weapon and the shoes he was wearing on the night of Lloyd's murder.
If prosecutors can get Jenkins to testify that she did destroy or hide evidence at Hernandez's request, they will be able to prove "consciousness of guilt."
She Can't Refuse
As of now, it looks like Jenkins is backed into a corner. If she refuses to testify, she could go to jail because the usual protections against testifying don't apply in her case. Here's why:
- The Marital Communications Privilege. This privilege allows spouses to refuse to testify to communications that occurred during the marriage. Jenkins and Hernandez are not married, so this privilege does not apply. Even if they were to marry tomorrow, Jenkins still could not claim the privilege because it does not protect communications that occurred before the marriage.
- Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment gives a defendant the right to not incriminate him or herself on the witness stand. Usually this privilege only applies to the defendant and not a witness. However, a witness may still plead the Fifth if the testimony will incriminate her in any type of criminal activity.
In this case, Jenkins has been charged with perjury for lying to the grand jury about the presence of Hernandez's guns in her house. She could also be charged as an accessory for helping Hernandez hide or destroy evidence. Normally, she would be able to plead the Fifth.
However, prosecutors have granted her immunity from prosecution for her testimony. Since her testimony will not incriminate her in any crime, Jenkins can no longer plead the Fifth.
If Jenkins does refuse to testify, she could face contempt of court charges and be immediately ordered into custody.
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