Former Patriot Aaron Hernandez’s murder trial to stay put
FALL RIVER — A Superior Court judge has denied a request to relocate the first-degree murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez from Bristol County, a change the defense said is needed because media coverage is undermining his right to a fair trial.
The trial is now scheduled to start Jan. 9 in Bristol Superior Court with Judge E. Susan Garsh presiding over jury selection. On Thursday, Garsh heard arguments from the defense and prosecutors on the defense’s motion for a change of venue before rejecting the request.
Attorneys for Hernandez had hired a pollster who says too many Bristol County residents have already made up their minds.
“As the telephone polls conducted for the Defendant demonstrate, due to pre-trial publicity the likes of which have perhaps never been seen in Massachusetts, a deep and objective jury pool simply does not exist in Bristol County,’’ the lawyers wrote on Tuesday.
But Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter’s office has said in court papers that they believe Hernandez can be fairly tried in Bristol County.
In the same papers, defense lawyers also accused Sutter’s office of poaching ideas and phrases from federal prosecutors who are bringing the case against alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
The defense lawyers wrote that Sutter’s office, in opposing their change of venue request, cut and pasted sections from documents that federal prosecutors had filed in the Tsarnaev case.
Tsarnaev’s lawyers had also asked for a change of venue. That request was denied late last month by the federal judge overseeing his case.
“Leaving aside all of the reactions one might have on many levels to this extensive, undisclosed submission of another’s work to a court, the conduct appears to convey a lack of interest on the part of the Commonwealth in fashioning its own vigorous opposition to Hernandez’s motion for a change of venue,’’ Hernandez’s attorneys wrote.
“By simply cutting and pasting the work of others, the Commonwealth conveys the message that a recycled opposition is sufficient to blunt Hernandez’s motion for a change of venue. In so doing, the Commonwealth greatly misapprehends the well-founded basis for Hernandez’s motion and the unique circumstances of this case,’’ the defense wrote.
In its filing, the defense identified eight places where, they said, Sutter’s office had echoed the words of prosecutors in US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office “nearly word-for-word.’’
Sutter’s office fired back in a statement on Wednesday night.
“We do not respond to personal attacks, especially where the very issue before the court is the extent of media sensationalism surrounding the present case,” the statement said, adding that parties are required to cite relevant case law in court filings.
“To the extent that both the Tsarnaev and Hernandez change of venue motions raise the same basic legal issues, we were required to cite the same Supreme Court cases setting out the governing law as the US Attorney’s Office. Any experienced legal observer would understand that this is a standard practice.”
Both Hernandez and Tsarnaev have pleaded not guilty to all charges and are being held without bail.
Hernandez, 24, and two co-defendants, Carlos Ortiz, 28, and Ernest Wallace, 42, are accused of murdering a Dorchester man, Odin L. Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial yard near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home in June 2013.
In addition to the charges in Bristol County, Hernandez faces first-degree murder charges in Suffolk County in a 2012 double slaying in Boston.
Tsarnaev, along with his late older brother, Tamerlan, is accused of planting the bombs that exploded on April 15, 2013, near the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three people and wounding more than 260 others. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces a host of federal charges.