FALL RIVER — Aaron Hernandez will be moved from a Bristol County jail to a facility closer to Boston, a judge ruled Monday, and the former NFL star’s lawyers said they plan to argue that his pending murder trial should be moved as well.
During a hearing in Bristol Superior Court, Judge E. Susan Garsh said Hernandez could be moved from the Bristol County jail in Dartmouth to a facility closer to his Boston-based lawyers, who said they want to be able to meet with Hernandez more easily as they prepare for his upcoming murder trial.
A spokesman for the Bristol County sheriff’s office said that Hernandez will be moved to a Suffolk County jail, but neither the spokesman nor the judge said when the move would occur.
Hernandez faces three murder charges in two cases. He is accused of killing Odin L. Lloyd in North Attleborough in June 2013, and of shooting Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado after an altercation at a nightclub in Boston in July 2012. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
The cases have drawn national attention because of Hernandez’s stature as a promising professional athlete before his arrest. Defense attorneys say that attention may make it difficult to find an impartial jury in Bristol County when Hernandez goes on trial in Lloyd’s killing.
“It is quite possible we are going to file a motion for a change of venue,” said defense attorney James Sultan.
Hernandez’s trial in the North Attleborough homicide is tentatively set to begin Oct. 6, but Garsh said Monday that Jan. 1 may be a more realistic date.
“If you all really think Oct. 6 is realistic, then we can shoot for that,” she told the lawyers.
Attorneys for both sides agreed to write the judge a memo within a week about a preferred starting date.
Prosecutors said DNA and forensic evidence in the case is ready, and they could be prepared for an October trial.
But Garsh said jury selection may be a hurdle, and the trial may take months, which could present problems around Thanksgiving and other winter holidays.
If the trial remains in Bristol County and is held in October, Garsh said, the jury commissioner would need to know by the end of this month in order to summon a large enough jury pool.
When it comes time for jury selection, Garsh said the court could model its process on recent high-profile federal cases such as that of mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. Under that system, she said, initial juror screening would happen through a written questionnaire provided to hundreds or potentially more than a thousand possible jurors.
Garsh also ruled Monday that authorities could subpoena local news outlets for raw video footage from the day police searched Hernandez’s North Attleborough home last June. Defense attorneys want to see whether a state trooper entering the home was holding a folder, which theoretically would contain an affidavit authorizing the search.
Hernandez appeared in court Monday in slacks, a dark blazer, and a pink tie. He smiled at relatives when he entered the room. At one point, while conferring with his lawyers before the hearing, Hernandez looked back. His mother, Terri, gave him a thumbs up. His brother, DJ, mouthed, “I love you.”
DJ Hernandez and other relatives declined to comment outside the courtroom.
Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said he is looking forward to knowing a firm trial date in about a month. He declined to comment on when he thinks the starting date will be, but said, “We’re ready to go right now.”