FALL RIVER, Mass. – A media group on Friday asked a judge to unseal documents relating to an unspecified juror issue in ex-New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez’s recent murder trial in Massachusetts.
“It’s an attack on the media that doesn’t go anywhere. I think it ignores the First Amendment role of the media and press on behalf of the public to investigate the criminal judicial system,” said Zack Kleinsasser, an attorney for newspaper publisher GateHouse Media.
Hernandez lawyer James Sultan recently filed papers under seal requesting an inquiry into a juror’s “exposure to significant extraneous matter.” Sultan hasn’t disclosed details about what the issue is, and prosecutors haven’t either.
Hernandez was convicted in April of first-degree murder in the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
Kleinsasser told Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh that the criteria for sealing documents had not been met in this case and that the defence had not offered any adequate alternatives, such as redacting the documents.
A spokeswoman for the Bristol County district attorney’s office said it wouldn’t comment on the case until the judge had issued a ruling.
Sultan told the judge that he and the other lawyers for Hernandez believe he did not receive a fair trial. He said he has requested that his filings be temporarily impounded until a factual investigation is completed.
Garsh suggested that, given the intense media interest in the Hernandez case, it might be fair to assume that if a juror’s identity were revealed, the media would attempt to interview that juror, which could interfere with an evidentiary hearing.
But Kleinsasser argued that that was an assumption and that the burden of proof is “not on the media” but “at all times rests on the defendant.”
Garsh took the arguments under advisement.
Meanwhile, prosecutors filed a document Thursday in Bristol Superior Court opposing Hernandez’s motion for a required finding of not guilty, a procedural step that Hernandez must take before any appeal.