Lawyers for Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player charged with three murders in two counties, asked a Suffolk County judge Tuesday to issue a gag order in the case pending there.
In arguing for a motion to bar lawyers and investigators from making extrajudicial statements in the high-profile double murder case, defense attorney James Sultan said the measure was necessary to ensure that the jury is not “poisoned” and that Hernandez receives a fair trial.
“Let a jury decide” the merits of the case, Sultan told Judge Jeffrey Locke. “That’s all we’re asking for.”
Prosecutor Patrick Haggan countered that his office strictly adheres to the rules of professional conduct, which already prohibit prejudicial statements outside the courtroom. He called the defense motion burdensome and unnecessary.
Locke took the motion under advisement.
Hernandez, 24, pleaded not guilty in Suffolk County to charges that he murdered Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, in a drive-by shooting in the South End in July 2012.
Hernandez has also pleaded not guilty to a murder charge in Bristol County, where prosecutors say he orchestrated the June 2013 slaying of Odin L. Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester.
Hernandez is being held without bail. When he entered the courtroom Tuesday, at least one woman in a group of the victims’ relatives began crying.
Also during Tuesday’s hearing, Locke set a tentative trial date for May 28, 2015, and a pretrial hearing for Nov. 25.
Charles Rankin, another lawyer for Hernandez, requested a delay, noting that the Bristol County trial is currently on track to start in October.
Locke said “there may be good cause” to revisit the Suffolk schedule but opted to stick with the tentative May 2015 trial date.
Hernandez wore a dark blazer and slacks and grinned while he spoke with Rankin.
Locke granted a defense request to have Hernandez’s handcuffs removed, but he first asked court officers if they had any concerns. They did not.
Hernandez is due back in court in the Suffolk case on Aug. 14 for a status hearing.