Strip away the high-profile defendant and the high-profile witnesses, and the Aaron Hernandez case remains an extraordinary and instructive criminal trial. There is nothing unusual about a circumstantial evidence case. Many crimes are committed without eyewitnesses — or with none who will testify.

Here, though, not only were there no testifying eyewitnesses, there was also no murder weapon and no motive. Missing one out of those three is fairly common, missing two out of three is a tough case, missing all three makes the verdict all the more surprising. It’s important to look at some of the other pieces, and what they say about trials and society.

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