ROBERT E. SHAPIRO
The author, an associate editor of LITIGATION, is with Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg LLP,
We’d seen this bad TV drama before.
A star athlete charged with murder.
Minimally trained (and badly paid) prosecutors laboring diligently, but with only
inadequate resources and a questionable
police investigation to work with. Crafty
and experienced defense lawyers representing the wealthy sports star and overmatching the state in every way. With
the high burdens of proof in criminal
prosecutions in our system, there would
seem to be no chance of a conviction. “If
[the gloves] don’t fit, you must acquit”?
Another heinous crime left unpunished.
The names certainly had changed.
Not O.J. Simpson this time, but Aaron
Hernandez, star tight end of the New
England Patriots. Charged not in the
murder of his former wife, but close
enough. The victim was one Odin Lloyd,
a semi-pro football player dating the sis-
ter of Hernandez’s fiancée. Hernandez
certainly had the wherewithal to choose
counsel matching that of his infamous
predecessor-in-the-dock. Shortly before
the crime, Hernandez had signed a mam-
moth contract with the Patriots guar-
anteeing him at least $16 million. The
Patriots cut him after he was accused, in
this murder and two others. But the mon-
ey was his, and he could afford to pay the
piper in the hopes of walking away from
the indictments at least a free man, and
still a celebrity, if no longer a star foot-
ball player. So he assembled an elite legal
team and set out on the well-worn path of
over whelming the local public servants of
a suburb north of Boston.
So it had all the trappings of anoth-
er courtroom disaster for the state. The
early readings seemed to bear out these
fears. Hernandez’s legal team won several
early procedural motions. And in a seem-
ing reprise of events at the O.J. Simpson
trial, it quickly became apparent that the
state had no murder weapon, a deficit of-
ten fatal in murder trials. O.J., you may
remember, was suspected of disposing
of this critical evidence in the woods
around O’Hare Airport, which a troop
of deputies combed through to no avail,
never being able to find anything. So too,
here, Hernandez’s fiancée was thought
to have disposed of a sealed container of
items given to her by Hernandez after the
event, placing it in a dumpster she could
no longer identify. And to complicate mat-
ters further, she wasn’t talking anyway,
invoking her Fifth Amendment rights
and suffering a contempt citation for re-
fusing to appear before the grand jury.
Hernandez’s alleged accomplices, now
codefendants, were also standing mute.
As the trial began, however, it became
OLD MORAL TALES,