Bill Belichick was not going to be the defense’s star witness in the Aaron Hernandez double-murder trial, but he was issued a subpoena and failed to appear in court, according to a lawyer for the former Patriots tight end. Hernandez’s defense team rested its case Wednesday without the New England coach’s testimony, and both sides made their closing arguments Thursday.
Jurors are set to deliberate on Friday — and longer if needed — as Hernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the July 2012 deaths of two men, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Hernandez is also charged with witness intimidation and shooting his former close friend, Alexander Bradley, in the face seven months after the two deaths.
Hernandez’s lawyer, Jose Baez, claimed that Bradley was the real killer, one who got the “deal of a lifetime” to turn on his client. It’s not clear what role Belichick may have played in the story Baez was trying to tell on behalf of Hernandez, who himself did not take the witness stand, but the lawyer decided to move on without the coach.
— Christina Hager (@HagerWBZ) April 5, 2017
“It was short notice, so I didn’t make a big deal about it,” Baez told Yahoo Sports after court proceedings ended Thursday. “It wasn’t a big part of the trial anyway, so I dropped it.”
Baez said that Belichick, who had been named by the defense as a possible witness before the trial began in March, was served a subpoena to appear at Suffolk County (Mass.) Court. “I’m not sure what happened,” Baez added, but he told Yahoo that Belichick’s schedule would not allow for him to appear in court in the time frame mandated by the trial.
Normally, people properly served subpoenas who don’t appear can face court-ordered charges of their own, but it’s possible that the judge in the trial, Jeffrey Locke, agreed with Baez to simply proceed without Belichick. It is also possible that lawyers for the coach came to an undisclosed arrangement with the court.
Hernandez is already serving a life sentence for the 2013 death of another man, Odin Lloyd. The former tight end was a fourth-round pick in 2010 who played for the Patriots for three seasons, and he signed a five-year contract extension a month after the double murder. New England released Hernandez shortly after he was charged with the murder of Lloyd in June 2013.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft testified during that trial, in 2015, that Hernandez had told him directly that he was innocent of Lloyd’s death. Kraft also testified that Hernandez said he “hoped that the time of the incident became public because he was at a club at that time,” which became noteworthy after prosecutors produced evidence the player was lying about that.
Prosecutors in the double-murder trial said that de Abreu and Furtado had angered Hernandez after one of them bumped into him and spilled a drink onto him at a Boston nightclub. Hernandez was allegedly a passenger in a car driven later that night by Bradley, who was told to follow a vehicle containing the two men. Bradley testified that when he pulled alongside that vehicle while it was stopped at a red light, Hernandez sprayed it with gunfire.
Baez, who gained notice for winning Casey Anthony a not-guilty verdict in the 2011 trial concerning the 2008 death of her 2-year-old daughter, told the jury Thursday that Bradley’s testimony was “riddled with lies.” He suggested that Bradley, a convicted drug dealer who testified under a grant of immunity from prosecutors, had shot the men over unhappiness about a previous drug deal.
“You know who the killer is: the same perpetrator who unleashed the same type of violence on the only man who could tell his vicious, awful secret — his former best friend, Alexander Bradley,” lead prosecutor Patrick Haggan said of Hernandez on Thursday.