FALL RIVER, Mass. - A Massachusetts judge on Thursday denied a request from former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez to move his trial in the fatal shooting of a semi-professional football player to a different county.
Hernandez, a former tight end for the Patriots, is charged in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiance. Lloyd's body was found in an industrial park about a mile from Hernandez's home in North Attleborough.
In court Thursday, Hernandez's lawyer, Michael Fee, urged a judge to move the trial out of Bristol County, citing what he called "sensational and inflammatory" media coverage he said has prejudiced potential jurors against Hernandez. Fee said the press coverage of Hernandez has been "relentless" and has often included references to other crimes, including separate charges against Hernandez in Suffolk County in the 2012 killings of two Boston men.
"This has poisoned the jury pool in Bristol County," Fee said.
He cited two telephone polls commissioned by the defence in which more than half the respondents said they believe Hernandez is definitely or probably guilty in Lloyd's killing.
Prosecutors, however, challenged the methodology and reliability of the polls, and said Hernandez had not shown that the jury pool in Bristol County has been tainted by media coverage.
Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh denied the motion to change venue, finding that Hernandez's lawyers had not shown that the Bristol County community's prejudgment of the case is so substantial that picking impartial jurors would be impossible.
Hernandez's trial in Lloyd's killing is scheduled to begin Jan. 9. Garsh said she plans to summon more than 1,000 people to pick a jury.
In Suffolk County, Hernandez is accused in the fatal shootings of two men in July 2012. Prosecutors say Hernandez followed the men after one of them accidentally spilled a drink on him at a Boston nightclub. He is accused of shooting into the men's car at a stop light, killing them and injuring a third man. He has pleaded not guilty. That trial is scheduled to start May 28.