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Flawed star witnesses link Hernandez, Bella Bond cases

Alexander Bradley (left) and Rachelle Bond testified during courtroom proceedings; Bradley at the double murder trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and Bond at the trial of the accused killer of her 2-year-old daughter, Bella.
Alexander Bradley (left) and Rachelle Bond testified during courtroom proceedings; Bradley at the double murder trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez and Bond at the trial of the accused killer of her 2-year-old daughter, Bella. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Aaron J. Hernandez and Michael P. McCarthy, notorious murder defendants who stood trial weeks apart this spring in Suffolk County, shared little in common on paper.

Hernandez was a former New England Patriots star already serving a life sentence when he was tried for allegedly killing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston in 2012. He was acquitted in April and hung himself in his prison cell days later.

McCarthy is a wayward drug addict who allegedly beat 2-year-old Bella Bond, his girlfriend’s daughter, to death in the couple’s Dorchester apartment in 2015 and dumped the child’s body in Boston Harbor.

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McCarthy’s trial started in late May, and jurors heard closing arguments Tuesday.

Deliberations in his first degree murder trial continue Wednesday. He has pleaded not guilty.

And as they await a verdict, Suffolk prosecutors may bemoan the fact that the government faced a similar challenge in both high-profile trials: a deeply flawed star witness.

The problem was significant but impossible to avoid in either case, legal specialists said Tuesday.

“I’m sure someone is gnashing their teeth over there in the Suffolk DA’s office -- ‘here we go again,’ ” said Rosanna Cavallaro, a Suffolk Law School professor who has followed both cases. “To confront the possibility of hitting that same wall, I have to think that’s very daunting to have that happen twice in one office. ... That’s got to be a morale challenge.”

In McCarthy’s case, prosecutors are imploring the jury to believe’s Bella’s mother, Rachelle Bond, who testified that she saw McCarthy fatally punch Bella in the stomach, and that he threatened to kill her if she told anyone.

But Bond, a recovering heroin addict who waited months before telling police about her daughter’s death, faced withering cross examination from McCarthy’s lawyer, Jonathan Shapiro, who asserted that she in fact killed the girl.

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During closings Tuesday, he highlighted her plea deal, in which she admitted to being an accessory after the murder and will be credited for time served and receive two years probation.

In the earlier Hernandez trial, prosecutors gave immunity to Alexander Bradley, a drug dealer who said he saw the former athlete shoot de Abreu and Furtado. Hernandez’s lawyers said Bradley pulled the trigger, repeatedly citing a text message the dealer sent to his attorney expressing concern about being charged with perjury in a related case.

Both Bradley and Bond offered crucial testimony but had an incentive to lie on the stand, said Robert Bloom, a Boston College Law School professor.

“That’s what the jury might be thinking about, especially because the government needs to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bloom said.


Maria Cramer of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.