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Nation/World

December 24, 2013

Judge in Hernandez case weighs gag order

FALL RIVER (AP) — A Massachusetts judge may impose a formal gag order in the murder case against former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez after his attorneys accused the state of allowing leaks that they contend could jeopardize his right to a fair trial.

At a hearing in Fall River Superior Court yesterday, defense attorney Michael Fee blamed prosecutors for out-of-court statements reported in the media that he says have tarnished the ex-player.

The judge did not immediately rule on the defense’s request for a formal gag order.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s girlfriend.

“Mr. Hernandez is entitled to a fair trial,” Fee told Judge Susan Garsh during the hourlong proceeding. “He is entitled to a jury panel that has not been poisoned by either false or sensational statements.”

In a November filing, Hernandez’s attorneys said the state had “flouted” the rules of professional conduct and disregarded Garsh’s admonition against prejudicial out-of-court commentary.

The defense said the prosecution orchestrated a “publicity stunt” in October, when authorities served Miami Dolphin Michael Pouncey with a subpoena related to the case after playing the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Pouncey played football with Hernandez at the University of Florida. The defense said serving the subpoena whipped up more publicity about the case.

The prosecution has not commented publicly on the subpoena.

In court yesterday, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley denied the allegations, saying no leaks have come from the district attorney’s office or the investigative team.

“We are playing fair,” he said. “We’ve agreed to the rules of professional conduct, and we’re abiding by them.”

McCauley accused the defense of misconduct by calling into question the state’s integrity, without evidence of who was responsible for any leaks.

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