Judge Jeffrey Locke agreed to hold motion hearings on Tuesday in the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez, who is charged with several crimes related to the murders of two men outside outside a Boston nightclub in 2012.
Prosecutors say Hernandez shot the men over spilled drinks. The defense, however, alleges the admitted getaway driver, Alexander Bradley, actually pulled the trigger in a drug deal gone bad. Bradley testified under a grant of immunity from the state and is serving time for a separate shooting in 2014.
After nearly a month long trial, the defense is expected to present just three more witnesses on Wednesday and possibly rest. Absent any rebuttal from the prosecution, closing arguments could start Thursday and the case could go to the jury late this week.
On Tuesday, Judge Locke ruled on a number of motions, mostly brought by the defense.
First they attempted to strike the witnesses intimidation charge in the case, arguing the state failed to prove intent. The judge took the matter under advisement. They next failed to get the judge to overrule his prior decision allowing the tattoo testimony into evidence. A tattoo artist testified to giving Hernandez a tattoo of a revolver with only five bullets and police say five bullets were used in the shooting. The defense motion to to exclude testimony of someone possessing the alleged murder weapon was also denied. Finally, the judge ruled he will ask each side to brief the matter of when the reasonable doubt charge should be read in the instructions. The defense is asking that it be read last.
As for the prosecution, they agreed to withdraw their joint venture charge after likely determining there was not sufficient evidence presented to sustain it. The prosecution also argued to keep the extreme cruelty charge on the table, but the defense claims their expert witness to be called on Wednesday will negate the charge. The judge will make a ruling after that testimony.
Finally, the judge made two rulings that are likely to help the defense. First, he ruled jurors cannot convict Hernandez based solely on the testimony of immunized witness. In other words, the state will need corroboration from another witness, in addition to Bradley’s testimony, in order to obtain a conviction. Second, he agreed to give what is called a Boden instruction, which says if the investigation is faulty they can consider whether that effects the overall prosecution ability to meet burden.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all counts related to the 2012 shootings.
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[image via screengrab]