ATTLEBORO — Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez returned to court Wednesday afternoon for a probable cause hearing in the slaying of a Dorchester man, but the case was delayed after prosecutors asked a judge for more time to prepare.
Probable cause hearings are generally rare in the Commonwealth, and the continuance was expected. But Hernandez’s attorneys criticized prosecutors for the delay and said they expect their client will soon be cleared in the June 17 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, whose body was found in a North Attleborough industrial park.
“On June 26, they made it sound like a slam-dunk case,” James L. Sultan told Attleboro District Court Judge Daniel O’Shea, in arguing against the continuance. “If they’re not prepared to hear it today, the case should be dismissed.”
In court, Hernandez wore a black suit with a white shirt. In his previous two court appearances, he wore dark green prison garb. He wore the same stoic expression as in previous appearances, and he often shifted his gaze between his attorney, the prosecutor, and the judge, depending on who was speaking.
First Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said in court that his office is presenting evidence against Hernandez to a grand jury, which he expects to act soon.
If Hernandez is indicted, there would be no need for a probable cause hearing and the case against Hernandez would shift to Superior Court.
C. Samuel Sutter, the Bristol district attorney, told reporters that putting forth a case, especially a murder case with volumes of evidence and numerous witnesses, at probable cause hearings is premature.
Hernandez appeared in court on the same afternoon that Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, addressed the Hernandez situation, not far away in Foxborough.
“I and other members of the organization were shocked and disappointed in what we had learned,” Belichick said at a press conference. “Having someone in your organization that’s involved in a murder investigation is a terrible thing.”
Hernandez was arrested and charged June 26 with murder and firearms-related charges. He pleaded not guilty and is being held without bail. Ernest Wallace, a friend of Hernandez, was subsequently charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Another man, Carlos Ortiz, was also charged with firearms offenses in connection with the case.
Law enforcement officials have told the Globe that investigators believe Hernandez drove Lloyd to the industrial park then shot him because he was worried that Lloyd had information about a double homicide last July in the South End, in which Hernandez may have been involved.
After O’Shea granted the continuance, setting a new date of Aug. 22, he took up a request by several news organizations, including the Globe, to release court documents related to the investigation, specifically the arrest warrants for Hernandez and Wallace.
Michael Grygiel, who represented several news organizations seeking to unseal the documents, said the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision pertaining to such documents is unambiguous.
“The law is clear: Arrest warrants, search warrants, upon their return, are public documents,” Grygiel said.
O’Shea lifted the impoundment of the documents, but delayed the ruling for 24 hours to allow for any appeal. Sutter said his office will not file one.
As he was being led out of the courtroom, Hernandez mouthed the words “I love you” to Shayanna Jenkins, his fiancee. Jenkins walked out of the courthouse a short time later.
Soon after Jenkins left, state troopers led Odin Lloyd’s relatives out.Brian Ballou can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @globeballou.