Updated Oct 10, 2013 twelve: 31 AM ET
FALL RIVER, Mass.
Prosecutors in the murder case of former football star Aaron Hernandez made it clear Wednesday they wanted a brand new judge — one of two surprising developments in what had been shaping up as the routine court hearing to discuss pending motions.
In a motion filed in the midst of the hearing, prosecutor William McCauley cited Superior Court Judge Electronic. Susan Garsh’s handling of a 2010 murder trial as reason for the girl to step aside. In that case, McCauley charged, she “exhibited antagonism plus bias toward the prosecution through the case. ”
Defense attorney James Sultan made it clear he will fight the effort to get Garsh to recuse herself through the case in which Hernandez, the former Pro Bowl tight end, faces murder and weapons charges in the June 17 killing of Odin Lloyd.
The second shock: The former New England Patriots superstar took the stand to answer questions from the judge about a possible conflict of interest involving one of Hernandez’s attorneys, Michael Fee.
Fee is law companions with a woman who is married in order to Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg, who might be one of the prosecutors in the case.
Many of the questions were basic — did he speak plus understand English, was he intoxicated by drugs, had he been identified as having a mental illness. At one particular point the judge asked him about his education — “three years of college, ” he said — and his employment.
“I played football — NFL, ” Hernandez replied.
But she informed Hernandez that she wanted him to understand the potential ramifications of the continuing court case.
“Do you understand if you are convicted associated with murder in the first degree the particular sentence the judge would be needed to impose would be life in jail without the possibility of parole? ” Judge Garsh asked him.
“Yes, ” Hernandez replied.
Hernandez, 23, has been accused of summoning 2 associates from his hometown associated with Bristol, Conn., late the night associated with June 16 to his house in North Attleboro, Mass. When this occurs, prosecutors allege that Hernandez convinced Lloyd he was coming to choose him up for a night out and that the three of them drove to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Lloyd allegedly got into a rented Nissan with all the trio, and Hernandez is accused of driving him to a remote field not far from the player’s mansion and shooting him too many times.
The alleged motive: Hernandez has been angry that Lloyd had been speaking with people he had problems with when the 2 of them visited a Boston club a few days earlier.
Lloyd, 27, was the boyfriend associated with Shaneah Jenkins — the sibling of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.
Five others face charges in the case — Shayanna Jenkins has been accused of perjury; the two men allegedly with Hernandez at the time of the killing, Ernest Wallace Jr. and Carlos Ortiz, are already indicted as accessories after the fact; a cousin of Hernandez’s, Tanya Singleton, has been charged with disregard of court and conspiracy in order to commit accessory after the fact; along with a man named Alexander Bradley continues to be arrested and ordered to state before a grand jury investigating the 2012 double murder in south Boston.
Prosecutors are probing a possible link to Hernandez in that case.
Wednesday’s hearing was expected to focus on the particular defense’s motion for a gag order — which the judge denied — and its effort to put prosecutors on notice about the handling of evidence. In that instance, the judge made it clear that prosecutors needed to notify defense attorneys in the event any evidence is lost or damaged.
But then it converted when McCauley said he desired the judge to recuse herself.
McCauley mentioned the 2010 case of a guy named George Duarte, who was accused of killing a 15-year-old in a New Year’s party. Although McCauley won a conviction, he known as out Judge Garsh after the situation, questioning rulings that he charged had been slanted to the defense.
In the movement he filed in the midst of Wednesday’s listening to, he charged that Garsh exhibited bias in that case and should step apart from hearing the Hernandez case.
“The perception associated with bias was manifested by the judge’s disparate treatment of counsel, needless interference with the prosecutors’ presentation of evidence, unfair exercise of discretion, disparagement of the prosecutor before the jury (by words, tone and conduct) plus erroneous rulings of law, ” McCauley wrote in the motion. “Such conduct created the perception associated with bias toward the prosecution which usually impaired the fairness of the continuing. ”
Judge Garsh, who had taken over the case in September, questioned the time of the motion.
“Is there any explanation for why each one of these days and weeks have eliminated by and it hasn’t been raised? ” she asked McCauley.
McCauley said that he had missed a previous hearing because he was in the midst of a murder trial and had not been informed that she had taken over the case until he was informed with a report.
“The commonwealth obviously does not take lightly the filing of a motion in order to recuse, ” McCauley said.
Sultan, one of 3 defense attorneys, made it clear he will fight the motion.
“We intend to object in the strongest terms to any motion in order to recuse, your honor, ” he said.
Garsh scheduled a listening to Oct. 21 to take up the movement, and a hearing Dec. 13 for further proceedings.
The potential conflict of interest also took these in the courtroom by surprise.
Fee, another associated with Hernandez’s defense attorneys, disclosed that certain of his law partners will be the wife of Assistant District Attorney Patrick Bomberg. Fee told the judge that he disclosed the relationship to Hernandez in their first meeting, which happened just hours after Lloyd’s body was discovered. He also declared that steps have been taken inside his law firm to make sure she does not have entry to any evidence or documents in case.
At that point, Judge Garsh asked Hernandez to come to the stand.
He or she stepped forward wearing tan slacks, a dress shirt, a connect and a Navy blue sport coat. Even though his attorneys had been granted permission to have his handcuffs removed, the particular shackles around his ankles rattled as he walked to the stand.
In the end, the judge concluded that Hernandez was aware of the issue and had chosen to keep Fee on his team without any outside influence or even pressure.