Aaron Hernandez lawyers seek to move trial out of Bristol County
Lawyers for Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriot charged with three homicides, are asking a judge to move one of the murder trials to a county “outside the boundaries of the Boston media market,” citing a flurry of “poisonous” coverage devoted to the case.
The change of venue request came Tuesday in a legal filing in Bristol Superior Court, where Hernandez, 24, and two other men face murder charges in the June 2013 slaying of Odin Lloyd, 27, of Dorchester, whose body was found in an industrial yard near the athlete’s home.
Hernandez and the co-defendants, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, have pleaded not guilty.
In the court filing, Hernandez’s lawyers argued that media coverage of the case has been prejudicial against their well-known client, making it impossible for him to get a fair trial in Bristol County. His attorneys suggested Hampden or Worcester counties as possible alternatives.
“The relentless avalanche of pretrial publicity -- the likes of which have not been seen in this Commonwealth -- has had a devastating effect on the jury pool in Bristol County,” the lawyers wrote.
The attorneys also submitted an affidavit from John Della Volpe, a Cambridge-based pollster who conducted a survey for the defense team that found more than 7 in 10 adults in Bristol County believe Hernandez is definitely or probably guilty.
Della Volpe has also conducted opinion polling for The Boston Globe.
In the affidavit, Della Volpe said that 14 percent of the 409 adults surveyed agreed with the statement that, “I’m certain Aaron Hernandez is guilty of first-degree murder and nothing could persuade me otherwise.”
Fifty-nine percent agreed with the statement that “I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Aaron Hernandez is probably guilty,” Della Volpe said. Five percent said Hernandez was “probably not guilty.”
Citing the poll results, Hernandez’s lawyers contended that the jury pool in Bristol County is “hopelessly biased.”
A spokesman for District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter said prosecutors will respond to the motion in court.
The defense lawyers, in their motion, used strong words to describe the media coverage of Hernandez, saying it has been “poisonous, pervasive, and effective in tainting the pool of potential jurors.”
“A change of venue is necessary here to ensure that Hernandez receives the fair trial to which he is entitled,” his lawyers wrote. “[O]ne in which the members of the jury will weigh the admissible evidence, rather than the sensational, often fanciful, but consistently prejudicial stories about Hernandez that have been distributed by the media and prejudged him as guilty.”
He is due back in Bristol Superior Court for a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday morning.
Hernandez also faces two murder counts in Suffolk County in the fatal drive-by shootings of Daniel Abreu, 28, and Safiro Furtado, 29, in July 2012 in Boston’s South End. He has also pleaded not guilty in that case and is being held without bail.