Metro

Judge postpones Hernandez trial in South End double murder

A pre-trial hearing for Aaron Hernandez at Suffolk Superior Court in Bosto in October.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/FILE
A pre-trial hearing for Aaron Hernandez at Suffolk Superior Court in Bosto in October.

A judge has postponed the trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez in the 2012 slaying of two men in Boston’s South End, one of whom had a chance encounter with the athlete at a nightclub.

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke made the decision late Wednesday at the request of Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office and defense attorneys representing Hernandez in the double murder and witness intimidation case.

The case is set to return to court for a status hearing on Jan. 19, the date that the trial was scheduled to begin.

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In his ruling, Locke wrote that both prosecutors and the defense are set to appear before Supreme Judicial Court Judge Margot Botsford Jan. 5 in a fight over the admissability of a “device’’ in the possession of a law firm.

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The evidentiary issue is so important, Locke wrote, that either side will likely appeal any ruling Botsford issues, potentially to the full SJC. “Both sides seek to fully resolve the matter currently before the Single Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court prior to the start of trial,’’ Locke wrote.

Since the postponement was sought by both defense and prosecution and there is a potential for delay if the issue ends up before the state’s highest court, Locke agreed to changing the trial date.

“In the interests of justice, the joint motion to continue is allowed,’’ the judge wrote. “The Commonwealth and Hernandez contend that postponing the trial is in the best interests of justice and will not cause the Commonwealth or Hernandez to suffer any prejudice.’’

The specific item being sought has not been publicly identified.

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Hernandez, 26, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder for allegedly gunning down Daniel de Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, in Boston’s South End in July 2012.

Prosecutors have said in court that the double homicide grew out of Hernandez’s belief that people were “testing, trying, or otherwise disrespecting him’’ in the weeks before Hernandez went to the Cure nightclub in Boston on July 16, 2012.

While Hernandez stood near the dance floor, a dancing Abreu bumped into him, causing Hernandez to spill some of his drink. Abreu, who had never met Hernandez, smiled and kept dancing, prosecutors have said.

Hernandez was livid and around 2:30 a.m., Hernandez followed the BMW Abreu was driving and fired five shots into the sedan, killing Abreu and his friend, Furtado, Haggan said.

Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation for allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley, a former friend in February 2013 in Florida. Bradley was allegedly with Hernandez during the killings in the South End, authorities said.

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Bradley is suing Hernandez in federal court in Florida for damages that he suffered during the February 2013 shooting. A civil trial is scheduled for Feb. 23 in Miami.

Separately, Hernandez was convicted in April of first-degree murder in the June 2013 slaying of Odin L. Lloyd, a 27-year-old Dorchester man who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.

Hernandez is serving a life sentence for that conviction. His lawyers are appealing.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.