Hernandez judge allows testimony to proceed after defense files for mistrial
Aaron Hernandez‘s jury this morning was instructed not to regard a witness’ testimony yesterday as identification of the former Patriots’ tight end as a double-murderer, after his defense filed for a mistrial.
“The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Hernandez was the perpetrator of this crime,” Suffolk Superior Court Judge Jeffrey A. Locke said, responding to the motion regarding testimony by witness Raychides Gomes-Sanches. “Mr. Sanches did not identify anyone as the perpetrator of this crime.”
Locke then allowed testimony to proceed after a fiery courtroom skirmish over the new defense motion.
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The defense contended Gomes-Sanches’ testimony was in violation of pretrial order prohibiting him from making any specific identification of Hernandez.
Gomes-Sanches, an aspiring rapper who was in the back seat of the BMW that was fired upon during the 2012 drive-by shooting, yesterday said, “Yeah, just like him, man … No doubt, man,” in response to Suffolk District Attorney Patrick Haggan’s question about whether he told Boston police the shooter was white.
“‘White, just like him’ where ‘him’ was followed by a knowing look and a head not at Mr. Hernandez,” Hernandez lawyer Ronald Sullivan argued today, saying the comment was tantamount to an identification during a motion hearing without the jury present.
A pretrial order issued in January said Gomes-Sanches could not make any specific identification.
“The Commonwealth simply could have let the audio stand,” Sullivan said, referring to a recorded statement Gomes-Sanches had given to cops on July 16, 2012, hours after Daniel de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28, were gunned down. “The Commonwealth did not have to ask additional descriptive questions. … This set the foundation for Sanches to give a response in patent violation of this court’s order.”
The defense initially moved for a mistrial yesterday afternoon during a sidebar.
Haggan argued he tried to keep the witness in bounds, but was unable to after multiple defense objections to leading questions. Responding to Sullivan’s motion, the ADA said he found the defense objections “disingenuous and bordering on offensive.”
A livid Sullivan jumped up, shouting “I find it offensive that Mr. Haggan stands here and tries to say what this witness said is the truth. It wasn’t the truth, it was a lie.”
Sullivan said he could not “stand idly by” as Hernandez was prejudiced “day after day.”
“Are you done?” Locke asked, after Sullivan had quieted down.
Locke said that, based on the transcript of the testimony, he did not see grounds for a mistrial. But he said he would accept a video of Sanches’ testimony to consider the defense motion.
When the jury returned just after 10 a.m., Locke gave the instruction regarding Sanches’ testimony.
During a separate voir dire, without the jury present, lead defense attorney Jose Baez pressed BPD detective Joshua Cummings on whether the victims had any gang ties, something the detective said he had heard as a “rumor” but found to be untrue.
Over the prosecution’s objections, Locke ruled the defense can ask about the probe into gang ties in front of the jury. Testimony resumed with Cummings on the stand at 10:09 a.m.