Articles Posted in Hernandez Trial

Can tattoos be consider evidence of a crime the same as if a person makes a confession to the police?  As a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer, I would expect the judge to say that the tattoos cannot be admitted into evidence; however, this issue is before the Superior Court judge presiding over the Aaron Hernandez trial.

Hernandez’s defense lawyers correctly argued that it would be unfairly prejudicial and speculative to allow the jury to infer the reasons why Hernandez may have his tattoos and attempt to infer intent.

Aaron Hernandez now spends his time behind bars serving a life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Additionally, he has been charged and is awaiting trial for the double homicide of Daniel de Abreau and Safiro Furtado. It is known that Hernandez has many tattoos on his body, and during a recent motion hearing prosecutors mentioned the potential link between the tattoos and the crimes that were committed- noting that the tattoos are “trophies of his killings”.

In a decision that could impact Aaron Harnandez’s upcoming murder trial in February, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled today that his lawyers can be compelled to provide his phone to the Commonwealth pursuant to an anticipatory search warrant.

Interpreting the statute governing search warrants General Laws 276 Section 1, the SJC noted that the statute did not intend to shield from disclosure anything that a criminal defendant provides to a lawyer in all cases.

The Court noted that none of the parties made any claim that there was privileged communications on the cell phone.  The judge found probable cause to believe that the cell phone would obtain evidence of criminal activity. The Court found without the search warrant issuing that the content of the phone could be lost or destroyed.

Where does the case against Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz stand? While the prosecution did a great job proving that Aaron Hernandez orchestrated a murder, the charges against Ortiz and Wallace seem to be based on the fact that they were present with Hernandez at the time. Mere presence at a crime scene is insufficient to establish a conviction without evidence that they assisted and shared Hernandez’s intent.

The case against Hernandez showed that Hernandez, demanded Ortiz and Lloyd come up from Connecticut to go out with him. Throughout the 139 witness trial, there was little mention of the role of Ortiz and Lloyd. The only mention was the inference that Lloyd must have been pushed from the car by either Wallace or Ortiz and that both had a history of drug use and used PCP.

There does not appear to be a strong case against either for murder. Wallace’s DNA was not even tested indicating a lack of investigation as to his involvement. There was no testimony as to any relationship between Wallace, Ortiz and Lloyd. Had there been an adverse relationship, it would have been likely exploited by the defense as a possible motive.

In the end, the detail after detail that the prosecution provided convinced the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Hernandez murdered Odin Lloyd. Jurors spoke after the verdict with one juror leading the discussion and indicating that the testimony of Robert Kraft was critical as Hernandez would not have known the time of death given the jury never leaned it after eight weeks of testimony.

Prosecutor William McCauley, made a very passionate closing a statement linking each piece of evidence and its significance to the jury over the 8 week trial, with 139 witnesses called and over – exhibits.

Here are some of the facts that may have convinced the jury to return a verdict of guilty.

The prosecution rested its case against Aaron Hernandez today after 39 days of trial.

Friday, the parties will address legal issues relating to a motion for required finding of not guilty by the defense, where the defense attorneys will argue to the judge that the Commonwealth has not presented enough evidence to allow the case to reach a jury. This motion will likely be denied by the judge, but is commonly filed in every criminal trial. The parties will also discuss jury instructions, with the defense presenting its case on Monday. The defense is expected to rest on Monday and the Court would likely have Closing Arguments on Tuesday.

Summary of the Highlights of the Commonwealth’s Case

Last week during the Aaron Hernandez trial there were a few great examples of cross examination issues that reoccur at criminal trials. One was impeaching a witness with a prior inconsistent statement. During the Cross Examination of Hernandez Lawyer Michael Fee, the witness, Kwami Nicholas continued to deny making any prior statements. The witness was particularly difficult in that even after being shown video and audio recording of his statement he continued to deny making that statement. As a Criminal Defense lawyer in Massachusetts, the Hernandez trial has raised many interesting legal issues that have been covered on this Blog.

Fee was careful in his impeachment of the witness because he wanted the jury to accept the prior version of events recorded at the police station. He avoided giving the witness any opportunity to minimize his statements at the police station. When the witness denied remembering the statement he moved on to his next statement, as any response from the witness would have been unpredictable. His final series of questions after establishing that the witness did not remember anything from the recorded interview, he asked the witness if he a poor memory, which he denied, but given his prior statement it would be difficult to conceive of the jury placing any weight on his testimony.

The other interesting cross examination example came from the cross examination of the Commonwealth’s footprint expert, Steven Bennett, from the Massachusetts State Police.

The case against Aaron Hernandez is circumstantial; sometimes in the minds of the public this makes for a weaker case. While circumstantial evidence is viewed as lesser evidence by the public and likely by a jury, under the law, the two forms of evidence direct and circumstantial are viewed as the same, one form of evidence is not better than the other and either type of evidence can support a conviction.

At the end of the case, the judge will give the jury instructions on the definition and application of circumstantial evidence that will help the jurors understand how they should weight the evidence and the language of this instruction is one of the many important aspects of the case.

The judge will explain the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence is evidence where a witness cannot testify directly about a fact, but the witness presents evidence of other facts that the jury may draw reasonable inferences from.

The trial judge presiding over the Aaron Hernandez murder trial in Fall River has just reversed a critical decision she made on Wednesday that could have been fatal to Hernandez’s case. During trial on Wednesday, the prosecution called an employee of the gun manufacturer Glock to testify about home surveillance footage taken in Hernandez’s home only minutes after the murder of Odin Lloyd. My Fox Boston reported on the events.

The Testimony

The footage revealed an unclear depiction of Hernandez walking through his home at 3:30am carrying a black object that resembled a gun of some sorts. The prosecutor asked the witness whether he recognizes the object, and the witness testified that the object looked identical to what he recognizes from his experience as being a Glock 21. And although the defense attorneys attempted to strike that testimony from the record, the trial judge decided that the testimony was permissible. This testimony is arguably the most fatal part of Hernandez’s defense, since it connects Hernandez to the alleged murder weapon at the time of the crime.

The Supreme Judicial Court quashed a Grand Jury subpoena approved by a Suffolk Superior Court judge that required Aaron Hernandez’s defense lawyers to turn over his cellphone, the Boston Herald reports. According to the SJC, the subpoena was an attempt by prosecutors to misuse the Grand Jury to obtain evidence in the double homicide prosecution, rather than using the proper channels to obtain a valid warrant.

The authority and function of the Grand Jury is derived from the Fifth Amendment, and is regulated in Massachusetts by Mass. Rule of Criminal Procedure 5. The Grand Jury serves an entirely different function than the better known trial jury, also known as the “petit” jury because of its smaller size. In contrast to the petit jury that actually observes a trial and renders a verdict on either a criminal or civil case, the Grand Jury’s sole function is to investigate a crime at the direction of the prosecutor, and to determine whether the alleged suspect likely committed the crime (probable cause).

There are three more important distinctions between the Grand Jury and the petit/trial jury. First, the Grand Jury only hears from the prosecutor, and the witnesses which either the prosecutor presents or the Grand Jury summons. There is no judge, and no defense attorney present. Second, the identity of the Grand Jurors and the evidence presented in a Grand Jury are completely secret throughout the length of each Grand Jury. Only the prosecutor and any testifying witnesses could know what is said in a Grand Jury proceeding. The last important distinction is the investigative power wielded by the Grand Jury, the exercise of which triggered this SJC decision.

With Hernandez’s first murder trial underway, scores of potential jurors have started appearing at Bristol County Superior Court to prepare for empanelment for this highly publicized trial. Hernandez’s first murder trial (for the murder of Odin Lloyd) began on Friday, January 9th and is expected to last several weeks. The double homicide prosecution in Suffolk County has been pushed off till later in the year, to allow Hernandez’s defense team an opportunity to complete the first trial this month.

The Significance of the Jury Selection Process

The jury selection process is one of the most important stages of a trial for both the state and the defendant. Despite the public’s perception of this trial stage, the jury selection process can often be one of the most complicated and most thought-provoking stages for litigators – especially with the enactment of a new law that allows attorneys to now question potential jurors directly (to take effect next month). But because the actual interview and selection process happens quietly at the judge’s bench and through written questionnaires, most jurors have very little awareness of what goes on at this stage, and are more likely frustrated by the lengthy wait times and constant questioning.

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