Aaron Hernandez appears in a Boston Courtroom on murder charges.

Credit: Cnn.com

Commonwealth v. Aaron Hernandez: The Road Ahead

March 7, 2017

The Aaron Hernandez murder trial continues this week with the case shifting from the opening phase to the prosecution’s case.  The former Patriot is charged with shooting two men to death in the South End in 2012. There are two key issues for the trial going forward.  

First, there are pending motions to dismiss the case. On Monday morning, the defense submitted three hefty motions to dismiss the case on the grounds of alleged government misconduct. The allegations revolve around potential witness Warren McMaster, a street sweeper who may have cleared debris near the crime scene. McMaster may also have told the police at the time that he saw a person in a white SUV who does not match the description of either Hernandez or his companion, Alexander Bradley, according to the defense. Hernandez's attorneys are arguing that prosecutors were less than forthcoming in providing this information, which in turn violates their constitutional duty to disclose this purportedly “exculpatory” information beforehand.

To prevail on such a claim, defendants ordinarily must prove the withheld evidence is both favorable to the accused and material to the issue of guilt or innocence.  However, it might be an uphill battle for the defense to meet that test. The prosecution put forth evidence yesterday (outside the presence of the jury) suggesting that McMaster’s machine may not have come especially close to the crime scene and, what's more, that he did not tell the police that night about seeing either an SUV or a person in such a vehicle. And, even if the defense’s interpretation of the facts is correct, it's not clear that the evidence is material, meaning that it significantly undercuts the prosecution theory that Hernandez was the shooter.

Second, we will see the defense's theory of the case. Defense attorneys often pursue one of two strategies at trial: either the innocence path (“he didn’t do it”) or the reasonable doubt route (“he may have done it but prosecutors can’t prove it beyond a reasonable doubt”).  There is a third choice that seems inapplicable here, namely, justification or excuse (“he did it, but it was justified because it was self-defense, or should be excused because of insanity”).  Here, the defense appears to have embraced a blended approach, acknowledging that Hernandez was somehow involved in the events that led to the victims’ deaths, but that it was Alexander Bradley, not Hernandez, who pulled the trigger. Bradley is testifying against Hernandez as part of an immunity agreement. His testimony — and more importantly his credibility — will be the central issue in the entire case.

To listen to the entire interview click on the audio file above.


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