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Attorneys debate jury instructions in Aaron Hernandez trial

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez hugged his defense attorneys, including George Leontire.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Lawyers for Aaron Hernandez are likely to rest their case Wednesday afternoon, paving the way for closing arguments Thursday in the double-murder trial of the former New England Patriots star.

Jose Baez, a lawyer for Hernandez, said Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court that the defense plans to call three witnesses Wednesday before resting. He did not name them.

Testimony was suspended Tuesday while Judge Jeffrey Locke heard arguments on outstanding motions and the instructions he will give jurors before they start deliberating.

Hernandez, 27, has pleaded not guilty to charges of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston’s South End in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012.

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He has also pleaded not guilty to a witness intimidation charge for allegedly shooting Alexander Bradley, his former friend and marijuana supplier, in February 2013 in Florida in an effort to silence him about the killings.

On Tuesday, Ronald Sullivan, another lawyer for Hernandez, argued Locke should acquit him of the witness intimidation charge, because prosecutors have not “made out a case sufficient to move on to the jury” on that count.

Sullivan said that, at the time of the alleged shooting in Florida, Bradley had “no intention whatsoever” of cooperating with law enforcement and therefore could not be considered a witness.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Hernandez did any act for the purpose . . . of influencing Mr. Bradley,” Sullivan said.

Prosecutor Teresa Anderson countered that Bradley’s statement to Hernandez, shortly before the Florida shooting, referencing the “stupid [expletive] you did in Boston” warranted the charge going to the jury.

She said a “reasonable jury could find” that Hernandez shot Bradley to silence him.

Locke took the defense motion under advisement.

Bradley testified that he was behind the wheel of Hernandez’s Toyota 4Runner when the athlete reached across him from the front passenger seat and fired the fatal shots into the victims’ BMW.

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The defense claims Bradley shot the men. He testified under an immunity deal and is currently jailed in Connecticut for an unrelated club shooting in Hartford in 2014.

In a court filing submitted Tuesday, lawyers for Hernandez asked Locke to instruct jurors to acquit Hernandez of the murders if they believe Bradley may have pulled the trigger.

“You are required to resolve in favor of the defendant any reasonable doubt which you have in the choice between the defendant and Alexander Bradley as the person who committed this crime,” the proposed defense instruction read. “Thus, if you have a reasonable doubt as to which person committed the offense, you must give the defendant the benefit of that doubt and find him not guilty.”

Prosecutors take a slightly different view.

In their proposed instructions, they asked Locke to tell jurors that “it is not necessary to prove that no one other than the defendant could have performed the acts alleged in this case,” only that Hernandez committed the murders beyond a reasonable doubt.

During Tuesday’s hearing, lawyers on both sides also clashed over the proposed language to describe Hernandez’s actions after the slayings.

Sullivan objected to references that Hernandez “hid” the 4Runner at his cousin’s home in Bristol, Conn. Police discovered the vehicle there nearly a year after the killings.

Locke said his instructions will include a reference to Hernandez “garaging,” rather than hiding, the 4Runner in Bristol.

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Sullivan also flagged the government’s proposed language indicating Hernandez “disposed of” his cellphone and the murder weapon.

“I don’t think you’d like the word ‘concealed’ any better,” Locke said.

Anderson suggested the phrase “discarded” by way of compromise, and Sullivan offered up “no longer possessed.”

Locke said he would consider the precise wording.

Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the June 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd. The state’s highest court will automatically review his first-degree murder conviction in that case.

The once-promising athlete was in high spirits Tuesday, laughing heartily with his defense team before the hearing began.

Hernandez, dressed in a gray suit with a blue shirt and tie, smiled when Sullivan showed him an image on his phone before he was led from the courtroom.


Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.