The trial for former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez is set for 2015. Hernandez is facing murder charges, including those related to the 2013 death of Odin L. Lloyd. However, the case is currently in court to decide a number of pre-trial issues including the search of his home and seizure of evidence.
Lawyers for Hernandez are arguing that the police did not properly question Hernandez when they executed search warrants at his house in North Attleborough. Specifically, they have said that State Trooper Michael Bates asked Hernandez about his phone without advising him of his Miranda rights. Evidence related to his home security system is also in question, after he allegedly destroyed the system after Lloyd's death. They have also argued that police illegally seized Hernandez's cell phone.
Testimony centered around whether Officer Bates asked Hernandez where his BlackBerry was, and about his phone's passcode. Another State Trooper testified to evidence found at the crime scene, and at Hernandez's home, including Odin Lloyds cell phone, which included text messages between Lloyd and Hernandez just hours before Lloyd's murder. His BlackBerry also allegedly contained communications between Hernandez and co-defendant Ernest Wallace.
Judge E. Susan Garsh has already determined that bullets found in his apartment, and a magazine found in his car should be thrown out because State Troopers did not demonstrate probable cause sufficient to search those locations. According to Bristol Superior Court Judge Garsh, there were no facts linking the crime to Hernandez such to support the search warrant. The warrant was issued for a phone belonging to Carlos Ortiz, who was allegedly with Hernandez at the time of Lloyd's death.
Subsequent search warrants did include searching for ammunition, but because police did not have probable cause for the first search, the gathered evidence had to be thrown out. The evidence dismissed by the judge include .45-caliber bullets and a .45-caliber magazine. Police have not recovered the weapon used in the shooting.
Yet another defense issue surrounds the seizure of a rifle from a car parked in Hernandez's garage. His lawyers claim the warrants did not cover a search of the car, which was not owned by Hernandez. Prosecutors disagreed.
Because Hernandez is so well-known from his Patriots' career, finding an unbiased jury will likely be a difficult prospect. The defense is requesting a change of venue. Judge Garsh has also indicated she wanted 1,000 potential jurors to respond to form question, and then for individual questioning. This number is about 10 times higher than other murder trial juror requests in Massachusetts.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges of first-degree murder. He also faces a civil wrongful death charge from Lloyd's family. The former star tight end for the Patriots is also facing murder charges related to the 2012 deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, after one of the men allegedly spilled a drink on Hernandez at a Boston nightclub. In that case, prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez was convinced people had been increasingly disrespecting him when he went out to clubs.