Police continue to investigate the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd, and Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to get legal advice from a large, international, corporate firm with more than 1,000 lawyers. If Hernandez ever ends up facing murder charges there’s one thing he needs more than anything else: A lawyer who has tried many murder cases.
For now, Hernandez is represented by Michael Fee of Ropes & Gray. Fee is the obvious choice from the firm’s broad corporate practice. Basically, he’s the guy who represents the corporate muckety-mucks who get charged with “white collar” crimes.
Fee’s online bio, the carefully-crafted practice summary prepared for every lawyer at every large firm, makes it clear that Fee has plenty of experience in criminal cases, but says nothing about murder cases.
Plenty of white-collar criminal defense lawyers at major firms started as prosecutors. So did Fee. But his online bio indicates he enforced laws regarding corruption from public officials, not laws against murder or related crimes.
At some point, Hernandez will need to realize that he may need something other than a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. If he’s charged with murder, Hernandez will need someone who has tried murder cases. Preferably as both the prosecutor and as the defense attorney. It’s critically important to have a lawyer who knows from experience how these cases get put together, and how they can be taken apart.
Also, Hernandez arguably would be far better off with a lone Vincent LaGuardia Gambini-style wolf than a prominent partner in a prominent firm. Lawyers in large firms can be almost as worried about the questions they’ll face from their colleagues as they are about getting a successful result for the client. Cases can easily be overlawyered by folks who dread the “Did you argue this? Did you argue that? Did you do this? Did you do that?” inquiries they’ll face from jerk-store colleagues who like to point out in passive-aggressive fashion that they would have done a better job.
If Hernandez ever is charged with murder and if Fee ends up sitting at counsel table as the lead lawyer, he’ll possibly be out of his element — but he’ll never be able to admit it. The best (or perhaps worst) example of this comes from the defense fashioned by the late Vincent Fuller on behalf of Mike Tyson in 1992. Fuller, a powerful lawyer at a big D.C. firm who represented Don King on tax evasion charges and proved John Hinckley was insane when he shot Ronald Reagan, had no experience handling rape cases in Indiana. And it showed. Fuller, as explained by Sports Illustrated at the time, painted Tyson as sex-crazed animal in order to show that Tyson’s victim had to know what was going to happen when she went to his hotel room.
The picture painted by Tyson’s own lawyer likely made it easier for the jury to send him to jail.
If Hernandez faces murder charges in Bristol County, Massachusetts, he needs someone who has prosecuted murder cases in Bristol County, Massachusetts (preferably with the person who’ll be prosecuting Hernandez), who has defended murder cases in Bristol County, Massachusetts (preferably against the person who’ll be prosecuting Hernandez), and who has practiced before the Bristol County judge who’ll preside over the case. Even if Fee has none of those qualities, it will be tempting for Fee to explain to Hernandez that Fee can do the job, since Hernandez has one thing most murder defendants don’t — a lot of money to pay the bill.
In the end, that money will be best spent on someone who knows the prosecutor well, knows the judge well, knows the courtroom well, and knows the ins and outs of crafting reasonable doubt in a Bristol County, Massachusetts murder case.
Actually, the smartest move could be to assume charges are coming and to hire that lawyer now. It’s obvious that Hernandez being targeted for potential prosecution, at a minimum for obstruction of justice. The sooner he’s getting advice from a uniquely-qualified person who’d handle a murder trial, the better.
For all anyone knows, Hernandez already is.