A judge today refused to issue a gag order in the prosecution of Aaron Hernandez for allegedly murdering two people in Boston in 2012, ruling that he saw no sign that Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office had violated ethical rules for prosecutors by leaking information.
Lawyers for Hernandez, a former New England Patriots star, had argued in court papers filed with Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke that the murder charges against their client – and a separate murder charge pending in Bristol County – have generated media coverage that is “virtually unprecedented in the history of the Commonwealth.”
Hernandez’s lawyers noted that Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh imposed a gag order on Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office and the defense team in the Bristol County case following news stories reporting that a Miami Dolphins player was served with a subpoena while at Gilette Stadium last year.
But Locke wrote that the defense could not point to any alleged leaks by law enforcement to the media in the Boston case.
Hernandez is facing a trial in Suffolk County for allegedly shooting and killing Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, following a chance encounter in Boston’s Theater District in 2012. Hernandez, at the same time, faces a trial in Bristol County for allegedly killing Odin Lloyd of Boston in North Attleborough in 2013.
Locke said that in the Boston case, without any alleged leaks reported, he was confident that Conley’s office, especially the trial prosecutor, First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan, had complied with ethical rules for prosecutors in the past, and would do so in the future.
“The Court is satisfied that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is aware of and operates consistent with the restrictions imposed by the Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct, rendering a detailed order regarding extrajudicial statements unnecessary at this time,’’ Locke wrote.
He noted that the Suffolk prosecutors spent 10 months using a grand jury to investigate the deaths of the two men.
“The details of that investigation were largely unknown publicly, and there is nothing before this Court to suggest law enforcement sources or under control of the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office gave prejudicial information to the media about the investigation,’’ Locke wrote.
He added, “This demonstrates that the Suffolk County District Attorneys’ office and the Homicide Unit of the Boston Police Department recognize the importance of avoiding prejudicial leaks of information to the media.’’
“In the end, the thousands of news stories and pervasive media coverage related to this case reflect Hernandez’s celebrity status as a former successful NFL player, who has now been indicted for three counts of first-degree murder; the plethora of stories are not the result of leaks orchestrated by attorneys or law enforcement officers under the control of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office,” the ruling said.
Locke, who is a former Norfolk district attorney himself, wrote that Hernandez’s attorneys can ask him to to revisit the issue if needed in the future.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all charges and is currently being held without bail at the Bristol County Jail.