Aaron Hernandez, who stands accused of killing Daniel de Abreu and Safir Furtado on July 16, 2012, nearly went off the rails on Friday after the defense moved for a mistrial over a comment the previous day by a key prosecution witness.
During testimony on Thursday, witness Raychildes Gomes-Sanches told jurors he saw someone in the shooter’s vehicle that looked “just like him.” The defense moved for a mistrial early Friday morning saying it was obvious Sanches was referring to Hernandez. Defense attorney Ronald Sullivan argued that Sanches made the statement and then gave a “knowing look” and a “nod” towards Hernandez, violating a pretrial order from the judge that prevents witnesses from describing certain aspects of the shooting that were tainted by pretrial publicity. He even went so far as to call the response a “lie” and essentially accused the prosecutor of asking the question in a way that would elicit the controversial response.
Prosecutors Patrick Haggan took offense to the characterization of his questioning and called the accusation that he attempted to get the witness to lie “offensive.” Haggan then blamed any confusion surrounding the questions he asked on Jose Baez‘s repeated objections to his attempts to question Sanches on the subject.
Judge Jeffrey Locke did not immediately deny the mistrial motion, but his remarks from the bench after the lengthy argument suggest that he is not inclined to declare a mistrial in the case. Judge Locke said he found no evidence of governmental misconduct in the asking of the question and gave jurors a curative instruction, informing them that Sanches did not identify Hernandez as the shooter.
However, the ruling did little to lessen the tension between the prosecution and the defense attorneys once the trial got back underway. A Boston police detective took the stand and Baez attempted to show that he conducted a shoddy investigation into the shooting at the time it happened and failed to follow up on important leads that pointed to a drug or gang motive. Detective Joshua Cummings strongly rejection Baez’s claims and said his investigation revealed no evidence that the victims were the target of some sort of drug or gang related shootout.
Baez’s line of questioning seemed to particularly bother prosecutor Haggan, who appeared to deliberately allow an exhibit to fall to the ground so that it made a loud thud in the middle of the detective’s testimony. Defense attorney Sullivan shouted an objection and called Haggan’s conduct “wholly inappropriate.”
Once again, the defense is clearly setting up its case to argue that the alleged driver of the shooter’s SUV that night, Alexander Bradley, did the actual shooting himself as the result of a drug deal gone bad with the victims’ prior to the shooting. Bradley was a former friend of Hernandez’s, but he has agreed to testify at the trial under an immunity agreement with the state. Hernandez is accused of shooting Bradley in the face in 2013 in a failed attempt to keep him quiet about the 2012 shooting. He faces charges related to that alleged shooting at a later date. Bradley is a convicted felon, currently serving time for shooting up a nightclub in 2014.
Things finally calmed down a little on Friday during the testimony of the car dealer who leased the 2010 Toyota 4Runner to Hernandez that police say was used in the shooting. The car dealer testified he stopped hearing from Hernandez about the vehicle after the shootings and when he arrived at Hernandez’s home in August 2012, he did not see the 4Runner and remembered thinking it was “strange.”
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all counts in the 2012 killings.
The former NFL player is already sentenced to life without the possibility of parole when he was convicted nearly two years ago in another murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. That case is on appeal.
Testimony in the trial will resume Monday and LawNewz will have live courtroom coverage and analysis of the action.
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