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Hernandez’s lawyers advance unusual argument to support change of venue

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez remains on track to stand trial in January for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.  His lawyers remain interested in moving the trial out of Bristol County, the site of the crime.

According to John R. Ellement of the Boston Globe, Hernandez’s lawyers have fashioned a somewhat unusual argument in support of their position that the case should be moved.  They contend that the prosecution essentially plagiarized the work of the federal prosecutors opposing a change of venue in the Boston Marathon bombing case.  Hernandez’s lawyers contend that, if the state-level prosecutors really cared about keeping the case against Hernandez in Bristol County, they would have come up with their own arguments.

“Leaving aside all of the reactions one might have on many levels to this extensive, undisclosed submission of another’s work to a court, the conduct appears to convey a lack of interest on the part of the Commonwealth in fashioning its own vigorous opposition to Hernandez’s motion for a change of venue,” Hernandez’s attorneys wrote, via Ellement.  “By simply cutting and pasting the work of others, the Commonwealth conveys the message that a recycled opposition is sufficient to blunt Hernandez’s motion for a change of venue.  In so doing, the Commonwealth greatly misapprehends the well-founded basis for Hernandez’s motion and the unique circumstances of this case.”

Prosecutor Samuel Sutter downplayed the notion that the use of portions of the filing in the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev prosecution in any way undermines the state’s opposition to the requested change of venue in the Hernandez case.

“To the extent that both the Tsarnaev and Hernandez change of venue motions raise the same basic legal issues, we were required to cite the same Supreme Court cases setting out the governing law as the US Attorney’s Office,” Sutter said.  “Any experienced legal observer would understand that this is a standard practice.”

Without actually seeing the documents, it’s impossible to know whether Sutter’s staff simply cut and pasted the mechanical portion of the analysis that sets forth the appropriate legal standard and cites the past cases from which those rules emerged — or whether they actually lifted verbatim the specific arguments made by the lawyers applying those standards to the facts of the case.  While it’s very common for portions of briefs and memos and written judicial opinions to be used again and again and again in similar documents, the idea that prosecutors would borrow arguments specific to the facts of one case to a different case seems bizarre, to say the least.

Then again, it’s possible that the same issues in the Tsarnaev case arise in the Hernandez case, and that Sutter’s staff liked the arguments that the feds used in the Tsarnaev case.  Even then, it would be odd if anything other than relevant legal standards and citations were cut and pasted from one case to another.

Ultimately, there’s nothing “wrong” about using content from other legal documents.  Lawyers are loathe to reinvent the wheel, and nothing in a legal brief is protected by copyright.  But it’s a way for Hernandez’s lawyers to make the prosecution look bad and/or sloppy, both to the judge and to anyone who may hear about this specific wrinkle and ultimately serve on the jury.

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Judge throws out evidence obtained from Hernandez’s apartment

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez continues to await trial on a trial of murder charges.  In the case arising from the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez’s legal team has scored a victory.

On Thursday, Judge Susan Garsh issued an eight-page ruling that suppresses all evidence retrieved from a search of Hernandez’s apartment in Franklin, Massachusetts.

The search arose from an effort to retrieve the cellphone of Carlos Ortiz, who was with Hernandez and Lloyd on the night of the murder.  While at the apartment to get the cellphone, police made observations that resulted in five more warrants — which in turn resulted in the retrieval of various types of ammunition and other property.

Judge Garsh found that the affidavit supporting the search warrant for Ortiz’s phone failed to establish probable cause to conclude that the phone is related to the criminal activity under investigation.  As a result, the phone and all other evidence later obtained via separate search warrants can’t be introduced at trial.

While a win for Hernandez’s legal team, the ruling likely has little impact on the question of whether he’ll be convicted at trial, since none of the evidence from the apartment is the proverbial (or in this case literal) smoking gun.  But it’s a reminder that Hernandez has very real rights, thanks to a system that would much rather see 10 guilty men go free than one innocent be wrongfully imprisoned.

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Hernandez legal team scores minor victory in court

Hernandez AP

Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez has experienced plenty of losses and disappointments in court as he remains jailed while awaiting trial on a trio of murder charges.  On Monday, Hernandez received a rare bit of good news in the Odin Lloyd case.

Via the Boston Globe, Judge Susan Garsh issued a 28-page ruling that prevents the use of evidence culled from certain electronic devices seized by authorities during a search of Hernandez’s home in the days after Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found less than a mile away.

The warrant targeted a GPS device that Hernadnez told investigators contained Lloyd’s home address.  Investigators serving the warrant took an iPhone 5, a Blackberry Bold cellphone, an Apple iPad, and two iPad minis.  Judge Garsh wrote that the authorities “operated under the misimpression that the Search Warrant authorized the seizure of GPS devices when they seized the cell phones and tablets from Hernandez’s residence.”

Prosecutors argued that a warrant authorizing the seizure of a specific cellphone allowed all similar devices to be taken from the property.

The magnitude of the victory for Hernandez and his legal team isn’t known, because the specific contents of the seized devices isn’t known.  But with a very high standard of proof in criminal cases, any little piece of potentially incriminating evidence helps the effort to secure a conviction.

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Hernandez cousin avoids jail time on contempt charge

Singleton AP

Tanya Singleton won’t be going back to jail.

The cousin of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.  She pleaded guilty to criminal contempt for failing to cooperate even though she had been granted immunity from potential prosecution.

Due to a cancer diagnosis, she’ll spend a year on house arrest and another year on probation.

“Miss Singleton’s willful conduct constitutes an assault on the rule of law and the effective administration of criminal justice,” Judge Susan Garsh said, via the Boston Globe. “Miss Singleton’s health is the only reason she is not being placed in jail.”

Prosecutors accused Singelton, who already spent 196 days behind bars while the Lloyd grand jury was in session, of having a “perverted her sense of loyalty” and an “utter disdain” for the legal process, via the Associated Press.  Prosecutor William McCauley said that Singleton put Hernandez above her own children, who were four and seven at the time she was initially jailed.

Judge Garsh denied a request from the mother of Odin Lloyd to make an impact statement during the hearing, concluding that Ursula Ward was not a direct victim of the crime.  Ward spoke to reporters after the hearing.

“What would you do or say to help the other family heal with the truth?” Ward said.  “My baby was my only son, my first born   My baby’s gone without me saying goodbye.”

That makes Lloyd’s family a direct victim of Singleton’s affront on the justice system.  Singleton knows something about what happened to Lloyd, and Singleton has refused to share information that could help Ward and the rest of Lloyd’s family obtain closure.  It also strongly suggests that the information would implicate, not exonerate, her cousin.

If Hernandez had any loyalty to Singleton, he would have insisted both privately and publicly that she tell the truth, without fear of the potential consequences.  Instead, he has allowed her to suffer behind bars and to spend what may be the final months of her life confined to her home.

While it’s still not proven that Hernandez killed anyone, what he has done to Singleton by not unequivocally and unconditionally giving her blanket permission to cooperate with the justice system is criminal in the moral sense.  Especially since there’s a chance her silence doesn’t come from a “perverted sense of loyalty” but from a very rational fear of retaliation.

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Hernandez cousin wants to avoid jail time due to cancer

Singleton AP

Tanya Singleton, who has refused to testify against her cousin, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, has pleaded guilty to contempt of court.  Her lawyer argues that Singleton should not go to jail for refusing to give testimony that could help send Hernandez to prison for life.

According to the Boston Globe, Singleton’s lawyer has asked for a one-year sentence, with credit for 196 days already served and the balance suspended in lieu of home confinement.  Singleton claims that she suffers from terminal cancer, and that imprisonment “likely would hasten” her demise.

In requesting lenience, lawyer E. Peter Parker explains that Singleton refused to testify against Hernandez because she loves him like a son.

Judge Susan Garsh ruled Wednesday that prosecutors must show that Singleton will receive adequate medical care in jail, if the prosecution intends to push for incarceration.

Singleton, who refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, also refused to testify before a grand jury investigating the July 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.

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Judge rejects Hernandez motion to dismiss Odin Lloyd murder charges

Hernandez AP

Behind bars for more than a year as he awaits trial for the murder of Odin Lloyd, Hernandez will remain in jail a little longer. Or a lot longer.

According to the Associated Press, Judge Susan Garsh has denied a motion to dismiss the charge.

She concluded that probable cause exists based on the evidence to believe that Hernandez killed Lloyd, and that circumstantial evidence is sufficient to convict Hernandez. The case against the former Patriots tight end lacks a murder weapon, and there is no reliable, first-person evidence of Hernandez pulling the trigger or even being present when the trigger was pulled.

The motion also attacked lack of evidence of a clear motive, but the judge ruled that evidence of motive isn’t need to prove that Hernandez committed the murder.

Even if the charge had been dismissed, Hernandez would have remained in jail pending trial for the July 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.

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Hernandez’s first murder trial moved to January

Aaron Hernandez AP

Whenever a headline about a guy’s upcoming murder trial contains the term “first,” that’s not good.

For former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, the first of two murder trial has been moved from October 2014 to January 2015.  Specifically, jury selection begins on January 3, and the trial starts on January 9.

Whenever the trial begins (and it could be delayed one or more additional times), Hernandez will face the accusation that he killed Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Hernandez’s second murder trial, which accuses him of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, is scheduled to begin on May 28, 2015.  That date also is tentative.

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Dispute over Patriots’ Hernandez records resolved

Paperwork Getty Images

The lawyers representing former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wanted to get a wide variety of documents from the team.  The team didn’t want to surrender certain things. A middle ground has been identified.

According to the Associated Press, attorney Michael Fee said in court on Tuesday that the dispute has been resolved.  Lawyers for both Hernandez and the Patriots declined comment.

The Patriots previously had agreed to surrender 317 pages of personnel records, but the team refused to produce a scouting report and a one-page summary of Hernandez’s pre-draft psychological assessment.

Hernandez’s lawyers have argued that the documents may contain critical information about Hernandez’s state of mind, which could be a hint that the lawyers are exploring the possibility of using some type of insanity-based defense as an alternative to arguing that Hernandez didn’t kill Odin Lloyd.

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Lawyers want their conversations with Hernandez not broadcast

Hernandez AP

The arguments advanced by the Aaron Hernandez legal team now include an attempt to keep secret the in-court discussion of their arguments.

According to the Associated Press, Hernandez’s lawyers filed paperwork on Monday asking the Bristol Superior Court to rule that private conversations between Hernandez and the lawyers not be included in the online broadcast of hearings.  The lawyers contend that the images violate the rules established for the electronic recording of courtroom proceedings.

“[P]rompt action” is requested.  Which makes sense, given that Hernandez will be back in court on Tuesday for a status hearing in the Odin Lloyd murder case.  Hernandez’s lawyers recently asked that the trial in the case be delayed from early October to early January.

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Pats clarify texts between Belichick, Hernandez

Belichick Getty Images

The team that never says anything unless it has to has decided that it needs to say something about the report that coach Bill Belichick and former tight end Aaron Hernandez exchanged 33 pages of text messages.

Via Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe, lawyer Andrew Phelan released a statement clarifying the extent of the communications and the period over which they occurred.

“Earlier this week, a report indicated that an exchange of text messages between the team’s head coach and Mr. Hernandez totaled 33 pages,” Phelan said.  “While it is unknown how the texts were printed or displayed, I thought it was important to clarify that during an early investigation conducted by state prosecutors, the team produced a total of 34 text messages (not pages of texts) spanning a period of five months (December 2012 — May 2013) between the head coach and Mr. Hernandez.”

While the content of the messages remains to be determined, the Patriots felt compelled to make sure it’s understood that the back and forth didn’t consume 33 full pages of text.  This won’t change the fact that the messages will be scrutinized with the benefit of hindsight for any hint that would have put the Patriots on notice of Hernandez’s impending implosion.  It only means that there aren’t as many messages as the report of 33 pages of texts would imply.

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League, NFLPA may want to look at Belichick-Hernandez texts

Hernandez AP

Setting aside for now the idea that a guy who seemingly avoids interpersonal communication whenever and wherever possible somehow generated 33 pages of text messages with one person over a four-month period, the content of those exchanges between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez from February through May of 2013 could be of interest to the league office for competitive reasons.

The labor deal signed in August 2011 placed new limits on the extent to which coaches can coach players in the offseason.  Prior to the start of the offseason workout program in April of each year, meetings between coaches and player are prohibited, and “players’ activities may not be directed or supervised by any coaches.”

It’s unclear what that quote, taken from Article 21, Section 2(a)(iv) of the CBA, actually means.  If interpreted as broadly as it seems to be written, any texts from Belichick that could be construed as any direction or supervision of Hernandez’s football-related activities could ultimately be a problem.

This assumes that the league or the NFLPA would even be inclined to do anything about it.  The Peyton Manning/Adam Gase Tuscaloosan rendezvous was by all appearances swept under Nick Saban’s pile of Little Debbie wrappers.  The folks in charge of enforcing the rules seem to realize that there’s some play in the joints, especially when contact during non-contact practices blows out a guy’s knee without consequence.  (Other than the blown-out knee.)

Regardless of whether the texts show supervision and direction that violates the letter of the CBA, the 33 pages will shed plenty of light on the real Bill Belichick, a guy who has managed to keep most of himself tightly concealed from view — with the lone exception of the documentary he uncharacteristically allowed NFL Films to produce a few years back.  It could be that Belichick was simply keeping closer tabs on Hernandez during the first offseason in which the player had an enormous amount of cash in his bank account, thanks to the long-term contract signed the prior August.  Still, if/when the text messages ever come to light, the words thumb-typed by the cryptic coach will be scrutinized for any hint that Belichick knew or should have known that Hernandez was behaving irrationally or otherwise at risk of doing something incredibly stupid and/or criminal while left to his own devices.

And if there’s any plausible reason to think that Belichick feared Hernandez was heading down the wrong path only a few weeks before allegedly killing Odin Lloyd and failed to do anything about it, the questions will get a lot more serious and pointed than whether Belichick was coaching players at a time on the calendar when coaching wasn’t allowed.

For that reason, there’s a very good chance that the Patriots will do everything they can to ensure that the text messages never are disclosed.  Hopefully by employing a better procedure than the one used to secure their Johnny Football scouting report.

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Hernandez cousin pleads guilty to criminal contempt for refusing to testify

Singleton AP

Barry Bonds had Greg Anderson.  Aaron Hernandez has Tanya Singleton.

Via the Associated Press, the cousin of the former Patriots tight end and alleged triple murderer has pleaded guilty to criminal contempt arising from her refusal to testify before the grand jury investigating the Odin Lloyd murder case.  Singleton’s lawyer said in court on Monday that she also will plead guilty to criminal contempt in connection with a refusal to testify before the grand jury investigating the July 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in Boston.

Singleton continues to maintain her innocence on charges that she served as an accessory after the fact to the murder of Odin Lloyd.

While bad news for Singleton, her refusal to answer questions under oath could be good news for Hernandez, making it harder for prosecutors to prove that he killed anyone.

But Singleton presumably will face criminal contempt charges again when the various murder cases head to trial and Singleton refuses to testify again.  The decision of a family member to refuse to testify could persuade some jurors to think that the accused is guilty — assuming there’s otherwise enough evidence to overcome the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Hernandez loses effort to suppress evidence in Lloyd murder case

Video Getty Images

The contours of any murder case are shaped by a string of rulings regarding evidence that will and won’t be introduced at the eventual trial.  On Monday, former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez lost the first battle regarding the proof that will be available for use by the prosecution during the Odin Lloyd murder trial.

According to the Associated Press, Judge E. Susan Garsh rejected a request to suppress evidence harvested from the video surveillance system installed in Hernandez’s home.

Judge Garsh determined that police had reasonable cause to believe that the video surveillance system “likely captured the images of whoever entered, left and returned to Hernandez’s house in the hours immediately before and after the shooting,” justifying the issuance of the search warrant that collected the evidence.

Hernandez’s lawyers argued in part that the warrant was too broad because it permitted the recovery of images captured inside Hernandez’s home.

The trial currently is scheduled to begin on October 6.  Hernandez faces two other murder charges from an unrelated shooting in July 2012.

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Texts from Belichick to Hernandez (33 pages) included in evidence

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick addresses the media regarding the criminal charges against Aaron Hernandez in Foxboro Reuters

The Patriots have worked extremely hard to distance themselves from Aaron Hernandez since he was first charged with murder, with owner Robert Kraft saying they were all “duped,” and coach Bill Belichick retreating to the safe haven of grunting about football.

But they still had to talk about their former tight end to Massachusetts detectives.

According to Jenny Wilson of the Hartford Courant, the statements from both Belichick and Kraft were among the pieces of evidence turned over to Hernandez’s defense attorneys, and made available Monday.

Prosecutors also turned over 33 pages of text messages between Belichick and Hernandez between February 2013 and May 2013, the four months leading up to the shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

That’s a load of communication between a coach and a player, especially a coach who doesn’t appear to LOL very often.

Detectives also interviewed director of football Berj Najarian, director of player personnel Nicholas Caserio and strength coach Moses Cabrera according to the list of documents which are entered into evidence.

The evidence also includes rental contracts for dozens of cars, going back to 2011.

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Report: Patriots don’t want to share scouting reports on Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez AP

The Patriots’ willingness to share information they collected on former tight end Aaron Hernandez with his defense team reportedly does not extend to their scouting reports.

According to the Boston Globe, an attorney for the club argued Wednesday that the Patriots should not have to give up scouting reports on Hernandez from 2009 and 2010, as well as a NFL Scouting Combine report on Hernandez from 2010. The club is willing to share more than 300 pages of other information on Hernandez, according to the report.

Per the Globe, Hernandez’s legal team wants the scouting reports and Combine writeup for its defense of Hernandez, who is charged with murdering three people. The newspaper reported that another hearing regarding the information the Patriots may have to furnish is set for July 22.

The Patriots selected Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

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