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    Lawyers call for Patriots to compensate families of men Hernandez was accused of killing

    Aaron Hernandez.
    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press/File 2017
    Aaron Hernandez.

    Lawyers for the plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit pending against the estate of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez on Tuesday called for the team to compensate the families of two men he was accused of murdering.

    “We would welcome the Patriots looking into that issue and doing the right thing, which is to compensate the victims,” said Kenneth Kolpan, a lawyer for the family of Daniel de Abreu.

    Hernandez was acquitted in April of killing de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston in July 2012. The former Patriot hung himself in his prison cell days later.

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    The alleged victims’ families have filed suit against Hernandez’s estate. Kolpan and William Kennedy, a lawyer for Furtado’s family, spoke to reporters after a hearing in the civil matter in Suffolk Superior Court.

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    Kennedy also called on the Patriots to compensate his clients, which he said would help “make amends” for the deaths.

    “I think they’re in a position to do that,” Kennedy said. “That would be welcome.”

    The Patriots did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The attorneys’ remarks came after a lawyer for Ursula Ward, who has a separate wrongful death lawsuit pending against Hernandez’s estate, publicly challenged the Patriots in April to be “champions of justice” by paying $6 million into the estate.

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    That money, which was owed Hernandez before his arrest, would then be available to Ward, her lawyer Douglas Sheff said during an April news conference.

    At the time of his suicide, Hernandez was serving a life sentence for murdering Ward’s son, Odin Lloyd in 2013. A judge vacated Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction in that case in May because he died before his appeals were exhausted.

    Bristol County prosecutors are seeking to have the conviction restored.

    At Tuesday’s hearing in the Suffolk lawsuit, a lawyer for Hernandez’s estate, George Leontire, said state law prohibits the plaintiffs from collecting punitive damages because the former athlete is deceased.

    Kolpan said afterward the plaintiffs will probably challenge that interpretation of the law.

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    Also Tuesday, Judge Douglas H. Wilkins set a July 2018 deadline for both sides to provide discovery in the lawsuit.

    A hearing on Leontire’s motion to move the lawsuit to Bristol County, where Ward’s suit is pending, is scheduled for Aug. 24.

    Leontire said outside court that it was “very doubtful” Hernandez could be found civilly liable for the deaths of de Abreu and Furtado, in light of his acquittal in the criminal case.

    The burden of proof, however, is lower in civil proceedings.

    Leontire also said it was unlikely the plaintiffs could ever collect any funds, even if they did prevail in court.

    “We may have an insolvent estate here,” Leontire said. “At some point I think that the plaintiffs are going to have to take a real hard assessment [of] what they’re doing.”

    The families of Lloyd, Furtado, and de Abreu have attachments on a North Attleboro home, valued at more than $1 million, that Hernandez shared with his fiancée and young daughter.

    Leontire asserted Tuesday that Hernandez’s daughter, Avielle, is entitled to a $500,000 “homestead exemption” on any sale of the property.

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