For the third time in as many weeks, a snowstorm delayed testimony Monday in the murder trial of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, which could bring advantages and disadvantages for attorneys on both sides in the high-profile case, legal specialists said.
“Every snow day is manna from heaven,” said Rosanna Cavallaro, a Suffolk Law professor. “It’s another day to prepare, another day to fine-tune.”
At the same time, Cavallaro and others said, the attorneys have the challenge of presenting dueling narratives to the jury in fits and starts, with each side trying to keep their strongest moments fresh in jurors’ minds amid frequent breaks.
The lawyers “may be thinking . . . ‘Whatever momentum I may have enjoyed during an effective cross-examination of a witness, how can I think about renewing that spark?’ ” said Cavallaro, a former prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office.
In addition to Monday’s postponement, a blizzard delayed opening statements and the start of testimony for two days after the jury was selected Jan. 26. Snow also closed the Fall River courthouse on Feb. 2.
And weather has not been the only factor.
The entire morning session was put off last Tuesday, while Bristol Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh held a closed hearing to investigate a juror, whom Garsh dismissed for lying on her juror questionnaire and failing to disclose detailed opinions the woman had about the case.
Additional juror issues have delayed the proceedings on two separate days, though no one else has been dismissed.
Each postponement brings the possibility that jurors may begin assessing the case based on the information they have received so far, said Edward Schwartz, a jury consultant with DecisionQuest, a Waltham-based litigation consulting firm.
“Without an update in court, they may be more inclined to start processing what they’ve heard,” Schwartz said. “I imagine it’s probably good for the prosecution and not for the defense” because prosecutors are currently presenting their case.
But Elizabeth Lunt, president of the Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, had a different take.
“These delays break the momentum of the prosecution’s case and make it harder for the jurors to follow the testimony of the prosecution witnesses,” Lunt wrote in an e-mail.
Last week, government witnesses included the girlfriend of the victim, Odin L. Lloyd, and his mother, who both provided emotionally compelling testimony about Lloyd’s death and suggested through some of their responses that Hernandez and Lloyd were not close friends as the defense has claimed.
But jurors also heard defense attorneys aggressively cross-examine the girlfriend and several police officials in an effort to portray a closer relationship between Hernandez and Lloyd and to show that investigators botched the initial processing of the crime scene.
Prosecutors have yet to present DNA evidence, as well as much of the surveillance footage and cellular data that they say ties Hernandez to the killing. He has pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges in the slaying of Lloyd, whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near the athlete’s North Attleborough home.
The trial postponements also could pose logistical challenges, especially for the defense, around securing the testimony of expert witnesses, who are often booked well in advance, said Jeanne Kempthorne, a Salem-based defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor.
“In this kind of case, maybe people clear the decks, but often experts can’t clear the decks,” Kempthorne said. “It does add to the stress of preparation.”
Nevertheless, both sides probably welcome the extra planning time in the heat of battle, said Robert Bloom, a former prosecutor and civil rights lawyer who teaches at Boston College Law School.
“It’s not unusual during trial for attorneys to spend late hours after [court adjourns] prepping for the next day or for the next week,” Bloom said. “I would think this additional time is indeed appreciated, as long as they don’t spend the whole day shoveling.”
Testimony is scheduled to resume on Wednesday.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.