It’s the strangest twist of fate in the history of twists of fate. Two murder trials 123 years apart in the same town and the same courthouse.

The Aaron Hernandez murder trial got underway today with opening arguments just three days before Super Bowl 49, where Hernandez’ former team is in Glendale, Arizona taking on the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.

Fall River, Massachusetts is about 36 miles away from Foxboro, where Hernandez and Tom Brady connected on passes. It’s also the home of another famous murder suspect that was the Casey Anthony of her day.

Lizzie Borden.

Yep.

THAT Lizzie Borden.

The same Lizzie Borden that alledgedly killed her father and step-mother with an axe in that now-famous (or infamous) poem. According to ledgend, Borden hacked her step-mother (who she didn’t get along with) 40 times. Later, when her father came home, she whacked him 41 times.

Because of that crime that took place in 1892, the trial was moved to nearby New Bedford and attracted global media attention, which helped turn it into one of the most well known who-done-its in history.

The house where the deed was done is said to have been haunted and has been turned into a bed and breakfast that welcomes guests and gives tours.

The Bristol County Superior Court, where the Hernandez trial is taking place, sits across the street from Lizzie Borden’s house. Hernandez has been charged with the murder of former semi-professional player Odin Lloyd as well as weapons possession.

Like Anthony, Borden, was acquitted. A lack of a murder weapon, no eyewitness testimony, an absence of what would qualify as “forensic evidence” of the day and potentially damning clues that were excluded by the judge are cited for her beating the rap. Public sentiment wasn’t kind to Borden, like it was to Anthony but officially she walked.

Lee-ann Wilber, proprietor of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum, told the Boston Globe and the Associated Press that “I always take the middle ground when asked. I don’t know if she did it but I think she was involved. I think
she knew who did it.”

Could we see history repeat itself? the Borden home has a front-row view of the latest celebrity trial and across the street from the house that was the scene of a murder so strange not even J.B. Fletcher could solve it, Aaron Hernandez is trying to give his side of the story.

Based on pretrial court documents, his defense team, led by Charles Rankin and James Sultan, may employ many Lizzie-like arguments.

Like the Borden trial, they could not find the ax that did the deed and prosecutors have yet to produce the .45 caliber Glock pistol that they allege was used to murder Lloyd behind an industrial park in North Attleboro near Hernandez’s McMansion in June of 2013.

If the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is to get a conviction, it will have to do so on mostly circumstantial evidence, albeit what appears to be overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Wilber said that while this is going to be an interesting trial, she’s not making any predictions. While some are on the side of Hernandez, others are saying “Fry him.”

Hernandez, who was cut by the Patriots after his arrest, will have a jury of his peers to decide his fate and those are the only opinions that matter. 12 of 18 jurors were seated Monday before the area was blasted by winter storm Juno that delayed opening statements a couple days. The jury of 13 women and five men, pulled from an initial pool of
1,000, were asked about everything from their NFL rooting interests to their views on tattoos. All 18 will hear testimony, with 12 eventually cited to make the decision.

Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said the case is expected to run between six and 10 weeks. Hernandez is also facing weapons charges and the prosecution is expected to call Patriots owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick, both of whom are in Glendale, Arizona preparing for the Super Bowl, so they will not testify this week and even that’s not a certainty of them making an appearance as the benefit they pose to the commonwealth is uncertain – they obviously held a
positive opinion of Hernandez due to the fact they gave him a huge contract before being charged in this case.

It’s different world between what Lizzie Borden lived in and what Aaron Hernandez is in now. There was no CNN or Nancy Grace in 1892 and the only way America found out about what happened in Fall River was the telegraph.

Aaron Hernandez at least has satellite trucks posting up in snow banks and Internet connections whipping testimony out instantaneously.

A twist of fate 123 years in the making in a place where a woman who basically snapped and alledgedly killed her father and step-mother is now the site of a former NFL star that even if he is found not guilty saw his football career come to an end.

The jury system worked 123 years ago. It’s not perfect but at least Hernandez will get a fair trial. Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said the case is expected to run between six and 10 weeks.

There’s one more thing… if you’re thinking about attending the trial, you might want to leave the NFL and sports stuff at home. The same presiding judge judge has issued an order saying that no one wearing New England Patriots or National Football League apparel will be allowed in the courtroom. “No person wearing clothing or a button or other object attached to clothing or carrying an object that displays any Patriots or other NFL team logo, football-related insignia or words and/or photograph that relate in any way to
this case will be permitted entry to the Fall River Justice Center during any phase of the trial,” the December 12 order from Judge E. Susan Garsh reads. 20 seats will be allocated to members of the public, along with another 20 for members of the news media. There will also be seating set aside for the Hernandez’s family or friends and Odin Lloyd’s family or friends.

Lizzie Borden. Aaron Hernandez. They are separated by 126 years in time. Borden was found not guilty and was the target of scorn. Could history repeat itself?

There’s no way of knowing.

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