If you believe internet commentators, Aaron Hernandez is guilty and that’s all there is to it. I see numerous opportunities for a defense attorney to make arguments to create reasonable doubt in this situation. (Even cases close to me like the West Memphis Three, unless I read the whole file – I have no opinion, it is not my job to have an opinion, and I certainly don’t want to put forward an unfounded one based on incomplete information.) I’ll say again that I am not quick to jump to conclusions because I see more twists in this line of work than in an overrated M. Night Shyamalan movie. That means the story WILL change from the narrative that we currently get on ESPN and the drive by media. For me, it is not about whether or not he gets convicted for anything, it is about did defense counsel do their job and uphold the Constitution.
Here I’ll address pieces of evidence one by one and end up with an overall narrative:
- Cellphone: The broken cellphone is mentioned in almost every article. Mr. Hernandez allegedly handed it to police broken. I’ve probably broken half a dozen of these in my life. I recently purchased a military spec phone just to not break it. This happens all the time. Especially if it was a flimsy iphone, because androids rule.
- Cleaning Company: Mr. Hernandez allegedly hired a cleaning company the night of the incident. I had a pretty wild night that night myself, if I had the funds to get a cleaning service in I would gladly do it.
- Body Proximity to House/ Rental Car/ Club Video: Based on the information in newspapers, Mr. Hernandez cannot deny he was with the victim at some point prior to the incident. His attorneys must admit this and strongly consider showing that they hung out all the time, if that is how it was. The forensic evidence around the body will be important. Was he killed there? Somewhere else?
- Research on Victim: Just like stories are being pulled out of the closet on Mr. Hernandez, you must research the victim here. Was he addicted to drugs? Gambling problem? Did he owe any scary people money? This is NOT as abhorrent as it sounds. What if your loved one was wrongly charged of a crime? You would want everything done possible.
O.J. Simpson’s attorneys effectively argued “entrapment” without ever saying the word. Entrapment is much harder to prove than non-attorneys realize, but the idea that an over-zealous media and prosecutor is trying to target or make an example out of someone is easy to understand. This theme will need to be played up by Mr. Hernandez’s attorneys. There is more than one victim in this horrible turn of events. This is the overall narrative.
Finally, and this is huge, the Law and Order culture may benefit Mr. Hernandez. While prosecutors generally are in a most advantageous position when conducting a trial, relative to defense attorneys, there is one area where they are not. Shows like CSI and Law and Order have convinced people that forensic evidence will always be there as a smoking gun. It is just not true. As a defense attorney I would seek to show that the State lacks forensic evidence, should this apply. One example of this would be powder residue that you get from shooting a gun. Mr. Hernandez’s attorneys should have had this done immediately through a private company (that establishes chain of custody) and not the police. They should then look at all the types of forensic evidence possibly available, and show how the State has failed to find whichever ones they fail to find.
In conclusion, police often try to get my clients to take a polygraph or speak without an attorney present. I always advise against this. It *never* helps. It is always inconclusive. Anything you say will be twisted and used against you. Nothing will help you. If you get a time wrong by mere accident, this will be used as evidence to show you lied and aid the State in a conviction, whether rightly or wrongly.