By Jenny Wilson, Hartford Courant
A Massachusetts judge Friday imposed a gag order that prevents parties in the Aaron Hernandez murder case from discussing evidence, and said in her ruling that the heightened attention to the former NFL star’s legal troubles merits extra steps to ensure he receives a fair trial.
Hernandez’s defense lawyers had sought the gag order, and accused the prosecution of leaking information in the nearly six-month old case. The former New England Patriot star from Bristol was arrested last June and charged with murder in the shooting death of his friend, Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée.
The order prohibits both sides from discussing details about the case outside of court. Fall River Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh acknowledged that the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office does not have control over all the agencies involved in the investigation, but said the government should take “reasonable care” to ensure that confidential information does not get leaked to the media.
Garsh said prosecutors should not only provide written guidance to law enforcement officers in agencies they do not directly supervise, but also should take steps to ensure those individuals understand and agree to comply with the policies. She ordered the prosecution to investigate media leaks, and pursue or suggest disciplinary action if a violation does occur.
Hernandez’s defense team had accused the prosecution of “orchestrating a publicity stunt” when they served a subpoena to Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey at Gillette Stadium last fall. Pouncey and Hernandez were teammates at the University of Florida, and their social media profiles indicate they have remained close friends. Sources confirmed to the Courant that Pouncey was subpoenaed to testify because he may have knowledge of the former Patriot tight end’s alleged illegal gun activity. Hernandez also faces six illegal weapons counts, after detectives found weapons and ammunition during searches of Hernandez’s homes and vehicles. The murder weapon has not been recovered.
Earlier in this month, prosecutors revealed in court that federal authorities investigating Hernandez interviewed an individual in Belle Glade, Flor. Authorities previously have said that one of the guns seized in the case was traced back to a purchase from a store in Belle Glade.
Hernandez has been held without bail since his June 26 arrest. He also is a suspect in a 2012 double homicide in Boston. Authorities investigating that case, a drive-by shooting in the South End, said in previously released court documents that they believe Hernandez drove the suspect vehicle and may have been the shooter.