A Massachusetts jury concluded on Wednesday that Hernandez had killed Odin Lloyd on June 17, 2013.
At the time, 25-year-old Hernandez had a $40m contract with the Patriots.
Lloyd was found dead in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez’s home. He had been shot six times.
Lloyd was a 27-year-old landscaper and amateur weekend football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
Hernandez’s mother, Terri, and his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, cried and gasped when they heard the verdict. Shayanna Jenkins wept on his mother’s shoulder. Hernandez later mouthed to them: “Be strong. Be strong.”
The former football pro was also found guilty on firearm and ammunition charges.
The motive for the murder was never made clear.
Police almost immediately moved in on Hernandez because they found in Lloyd’s pocket the key to a car the NFL player had rented. Within hours of Hernandez’s arrest, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the game.
Prosecutors presented a wealth of evidence that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time he was killed, including home security video from Hernandez’s mansion, witness testimony and mobile phone records that tracked Lloyd’s movements.
Hernandez’s lawyer, James Sultan, acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that his client was there when Lloyd was killed.
But the attorney pinned the shooting on two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, saying his client was a “23-year-old kid” who witnessed a shocking crime and didn’t know what to do.
Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial at a later dater.
Hernandez faces further legal trouble. He is awaiting trial on murder charges over a separate drive-by shooting in Boston. He is accused of gunning down two men over a spilled drink at a nightclub.??That trial was set to begin next month but officials have now said it will be pushed back.
In the Lloyd killing, the defence argued that investigators were fixated on Hernandez because of his celebrity and conducted a shoddy investigation in their determination to confirm their suspicions.
Prosecutors said Hernandez organised the killing, summoned his two friends to help carry it out, and drove Lloyd and the others to the secluded spot in the industrial park.
During closing arguments, prosecutors also accused Hernandez of pulling the trigger, though under the law it was not necessary to prove who fired the shots to convict him.
At the end of last month,??Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave testimony and told the court that??during a private conversation at the team’s??Gillette Stadium Hernandez had told him??that he had not killed Lloyd.
Security video from inside Hernandez’s home showed him holding what appeared to be a gun less than 10 minutes after Lloyd was killed.
The surveillance system also captured Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz relaxing at his home hours after Lloyd was shot, hanging out in the basement “man cave,” lounging by the pool and cuddling Hernandez’s baby daughter.
Hernandez was an All-American out of the University of Florida who was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round in 2010.