BOSTON (Reuters) - The intense publicity around Wednesday’s conviction of former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez for a 2013 murder will make it more difficult to seat an impartial jury in the next trial he faces, on charges of a 2012 double slaying.
However, the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole that he received for the first-degree murder of an acquaintance, Odin Lloyd, also raises the possibility that prosecutors in Boston would agree to a plea deal that would spare a second trial, legal experts said.
The jurors who found the 25-year-old former New England Patriots tight end guilty of murdering 27-year-old Odin Lloyd told reporters on Wednesday that they had known nothing about the additional murder charges Hernandez faced until after they reached a verdict. They also said they were unaware of another 2013 incident in which a former friend said that Hernandez shot him in the face.
It may be harder to find a jury to consider the next charges, that of the 2012 double slaying of a pair of Cape Verdean men outside a Boston nightclub, given the publicity around the trial that just ended in Fall River, Massachusetts, legal experts said.
“You’d have to have been in a cave not to have known about a months-long trial which contained a lot of salacious evidence of bad behavior on Hernandez’s part, including, at the end of the day, a murder,” said Thomas Peisch, a partner at the Boston law firm Conn Kavanaugh and a former federal prosecutor.
Hernandez’s trial in the 2012 slaying of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado had initially been set to begin on May 28, but will be rescheduled until a later date, said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk County prosecutor’s office.
Defense lawyers may push for a delay, in part to allow time for the headlines surrounding the case to fade, experts said.
Given that Hernandez already has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, his lawyers and prosecutors could work out a plea deal regarding the 2012 slaying, which occurred after a dispute about a mixed drink, legal experts said. Under such a deal, the Connecticut native would be sentenced to a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
Such a move would spare the county the expense of a lengthy trial, said Boston criminal defense attorney Geoffrey Nathan.
“There’s every incentive in the world for Suffolk County to try to give him a deal and move on,” Nathan said.
However, Hernandez is entitled to an appeal of his sentence on Lloyd’s slaying. That may leave his defense team more inclined to fight the other charges, so that if the first sentence were overturned, there was a chance of Hernandez walking free.
“For the defense, what do you have to lose? You go on trial on the other case, and maybe you get an acquittal, maybe you win an appeal. And then he’s better off than he was,” said David Weinstein, an attorney in private practice in Miami who formerly worked as a state and federal prosecutor.
“He’s a young man; he has nothing but time,” Weinstein said. “People with nothing but time on their hands don’t usually enter into deals.”
Hernandez’s lead attorney, Charles Rankin, did not respond to a question about whether his client would consider an appeal.
Wark, the spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley, said only, “We’re preparing for trial.”
Editing by Jonathan Oatis