Aaron Hernandez Wins a Pretrial Evidentiary Battle: An Interview with Norm Pattis

Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez will be tried for murder in January 2015. But his defense counsel scored a victory in a pretrial proceeding when Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh ruled against the admissibility of some text messages sent by the victim, Odin Lloyd, shortly before his death. Veteran trial lawyer Norman Pattis discusses the Hernandez case in this report.

Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis

When Hernandez was arrested for the 2013 murder of his friend Odin Lloyd, the murder weapon was not recovered. The prosecution has relied on some text messages sent by Lloyd shortly before his death and on surveillance videos showing Hernandez carrying guns into his residence shortly after the killing. Pattis says that the ruling on the text messages helps him. “Whether it’s enough to get him across the not guilty line remains to be seen.” Pattis points out that, in a circumstantial case, any evidence of motive or contact between the decedent and the defendant is helpful to the state.

Mere presence” will also be a likely defense in the case. Pattis explains that, in a conspiracy case, “being merely present while others conceived of a bad idea doesn’t make [a defendant] culpable” without more. Pattis says that Hernandez may have been merely present or near Odin Lloyd, but that doesn’t make him guilty.

The trial judge has also ruled that the state may not introduce any evidence of two other killings in 2012 in which Hernandez is charged. As Pattis notes, “We don’t put people’s character in evidence or their prior bad acts” unless some strict rules are followed.

Another issue that might have an effect on a jury would be the various violence problems—such as the Ray Rice incident—that seem to have cropped up in the last year or so involving NFL players. Pattis suggests that Hernandez will need to outrun the bias issue, and jury selection will be extremely important.

And another issue in the trial will be motive. Pattis says that, if Hernandez believed that Lloyd had done wrong by him in another case, the state will work very hard to bring that to the jury’s attention. But the trial judge’s ruling will make it more difficult for the state to use past incidents to establish motive in this case.

If Pattis were defending Hernandez, he says, he would be analyzing every witness statement to be sure he understood all of them. He would keep cross-examinations brief. “Less is more in this case” because the state doesn’t have a strong case.

Norman Pattis is a leading New England based trial lawyer. He represents people who face powerful foes. His relentless voice levels the playing field for individuals against prosecutors in serious criminal cases, for people or families who experience catastrophic injuries against uncaring insurance giants, for victims of corporate malfeasance, and other people who face the loss of liberty or property. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled. Attorneys from California to New York refer their clients to the Pattis Law Firm, and they seek out Norm as co-counsel in challenging high stakes cases across the U.S. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.