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Judge rejects recusal request in Hernandez case

Judge Garsh issues her ruling denying a prosecutor's motion to recuse herself as judge in the murder trial of former New England Patriots NFL football player Hernandez in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River Reuters

As expected, Judge Susan Garsh has refused to step aside from the murder case against former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez. As not expected, prosecutors won’t appeal the ruling to a higher court.

Via FOX Sports, Judge Garsh rejected arguments that she has shown bias against lead prosecutor William McAuley in a prior case he handled before her.

“Considerations other than the law have not and will not color any of my rulings,” she concluded.

“I have examined my emotions and consulted my conscience, and I am satisfied that I harbor no bias as a result of anything that happened in the 2010 case or . . . McCauley’s statements outside of court following that case.”

The surprise came when District Attorney Sam Sutter announced that the decision would not be appealed. Typically, efforts to remove a judge inevitably go to the next level, since judges usually aren’t inclined to admit that they have some bias or prejudice or interest that would affect their ability to be fair and impartial.

So why make the effort to have Judge Garsh step down?  Given the high-profile nature of the case, it may have been aimed at ensuring the media will pay close attention to her handling of the case, pointing out possible instances of bias in her rulings.  Which in turn may force her to be go so far out of her way to be perceived as fair that it actually helps the prosecution.

The risk, of course, comes from the possibility of alienating the judge at an early stage of the case. That risk may have been balanced out by the decision not to push the issue beyond her courtroom.

While the case ultimately will be decided by a jury, the judge always is in position to make a huge impact on the outcome.  From pre-trial rulings regarding evidence that will and won’t be allowed to be given to the jury and witnesses that will and won’t be testifying to efforts made to strike potential jurors “for cause” based on their beliefs and/or relationships to the many instances during a trial of questions that draw objections, the judge has enormous influence over the final verdict, and in many cases a wide range of discretion in making decisions.

The reality for the prosecutors is that, by firing a shot across the judge’s bow, the result could be that she’ll still make rulings they don’t like — but that she’ll be more careful about making them in a way that can be defended against outside scrutiny.

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6 Responses to “Judge rejects recusal request in Hernandez case”
  1. matt14gg says: Oct 22, 2013 7:38 AM

    It’s interesting the way the prosecution handled this. They basically sent up a flare about the judge’s past behavior and reputation. I think that was the whole point. It’s just a message that the whole world is watching. In Massachusetts she would not be the first judge to take it upon herself to “right past wrongs” by showing a clear bias toward the “plight” of the defendant. No reason to appeal the decision. The prosecution delivered its intended message.

  2. bigmike7914 says: Oct 22, 2013 8:14 AM

    The prosecution once again has fouled out in a major way, they already don’t have enough evidence, now they ask the judge to remove her self from the case, that’s like a kid telling his mother go to your room I no longer need to talk to you I’ll ask dad can I go out tonite….

  3. nyjetsfan08 says: Oct 22, 2013 9:32 AM

    The justice system is a complete joke. A complete joke! Better to live in a room by yourself for the rest of your life and not do anything that may or may not be perceived as an infraction on society, or you’ll have to go through the broken justice system.

  4. matt14gg says: Oct 22, 2013 11:23 AM

    “bigmike7914″
    Interesting take, but I have to ask, where did you get your information that “they already don’t have enough evidence”?

    They have eye witness testimony, video and audio tape evidence, forensic evidence from the rental car including a spent shell found under the seat, evidence that people in AH’s circle attempted to destroy but was recovered, a clear motive (tho that’s not necessary for a conviction), and a suspect with a clear history of violence, including gun violence. The ONLY thing they don’t have is the murder weapon.

    I’m guessing you may be one of these people who thinks you need to “solve” the crime the way they do on CSI to get a conviction. Not only is that not real life, but most people are convicted on far less evidence than the prosecutors have in the Odin Lloyd murder.

  5. sillec28 says: Oct 22, 2013 12:04 PM

    How does anyone know at this point what evidence the prosecution has or will have by the time of the trial?

  6. nfloracle says: Oct 22, 2013 2:12 PM

    She looks to me like a woman a smart guy wouldn’t want to piss off. Especially if you have to address her as “Your Honor” and stand up when she enters and/or leaves a courtroom.

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