Is it possible for Aaron Hernandez to have a fair trial? That question is front and center as his defense lawyer argues that the standing gag order covering the murder case has been compromised by the prosecution. The right to a fair trial is an absolute right guaranteed to all defendants by the Sixth Amendment.
Former New England Patriot tight end, Hernandez, 23, was arrested in June for the alleged murder of his friend, Odin Lloyd, 27. He is accused of picking up Lloyd, driving him to an industrial area, and shooting him five times. In addition to the murder charge, Hernandez faces five gun related charges. He has pleaded not guilty to all six charges, but if found guilty of murder he faces life imprisonment.
From the outside it appears both sides believe they have a strong case and depending on who one listens to they both make valid arguments. What is presently at stake, however, is whether Hernandez will receive a fair trial due to excessive negative publicity in the press and how the press accessed those stories in the first place. Since Hernandez’s arrest there have been numerous stories linked to him that have played out in the media.
Possibly one of the most damaging was an article written in Rolling Stone magazine. The article, Aaron Hernandez: Patriots Tight End Violent Evolution, started off with the sentence:
Aaron Hernandez might have been one of the NFL’s all-time greats, but he could never escape drugs, guns and a life of violence.
The article was very in depth and gave a great account of much of what allegedly happened on the night of Jun. 17. It was almost a play by play. It talked of Hernandez’s use of angel dust; his involvement with gangsters and guns, and how Hernandez had a “genius for breaking loose.” The article paints a picture which starts with a photo of Hernandez standing bare chested with arms crossed. The readers eye is immediately drawn to a theme represented by tattoos, blood spatters, bullets, a red background and bright yellow police tape running the width of the photo behind Hernandez.
Two days later, the owner of the Patriots, Jonathan Kraft, stated on a pregame show that there were, “two, three, four things in particular,” that were completely, factually inaccurate with the article.
The negative publicity continued for Aaron Hernandez and perhaps began to trample on his right to a fair trial.
In court this week Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Fee, talked of the Rolling Stone article as an example of how the media was poisoning Hernandez’s chances with any jury. He also contends that the prosecution has orchestrated publicity stunts to draw attention to the case and shed Hernandez in a negative light to potentially influence the jury. One such stunt took place on Oct. 27, at Gillette Stadium, when Miami Dolphins center, Mike Pouncey, was served subpoena papers shortly after the Patriots defeated Miami.
Fee has suggested that the prosecution has leaked information to the press regarding the case and seeks to put a stop to it. The lead prosecutor maintains they have taken steps to prevent leaks.
In light of the media surrounding Hernandez and his history in it, one has to ask oneself, what is the likely hood of Aaron Hernandez receiving a fair and impartial ruling since we all have the right to a fair trial as guaranteed under the Constitution?
By Scott Wilson