By Patrick Ronan
---- — ATTLEBORO —The news media has won another battle to unseal court documents in the murder case involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez.
Hernandez, charged in the June 17 murder of semipro football player Odin Lloyd of Dorchester, was in court Wednesday as an Attleboro District Court judge approved a motion by news media organizations to make public two arrest warrants and all unreleased search warrant materials in the investigation into Lloyd’s death.
The two arrest warrants – one for Hernandez and one for alleged accomplice Ernest Wallace – and an unknown number of search warrants will be released at 3 p.m. today.
The North of Boston Media Group, which includes the Gloucester Daily Times, the Eagle-Tribune of North Andover, the Salem News and Daily News of Newburyport, joined several news organizations last week in requesting release of court-sealed documents in the murder investigation. The other media outlets are The Patriot Ledger of Quincy and its parent company Gatehouse Media Inc., The Associated Press, Cable News Network (CNN), the Sun Chronicle of Attleboro, and WPRI-TV of Providence.
On July 8, Judge Daniel O’Shea approved a similar motion made by the media, prompting the court to release 156 pages of previously impounded records linked to eight search warrants in the Hernandez investigation. The warrants, made public on July 9, were executed by police between June 17 and July 1.
The media’s latest motion fought for the release of all other impounded search warrants in the case, presumably those returned to the court after July 8.
Hernandez’s defense team opposed both of the media’s motions to unseal records, saying the release of information could harm their client’s constitutional right to a fair trial.
Attorney Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig LLP in Boston, who is representing the news organizations, said state law, as supported by Supreme Judicial Court ruling, says all court records are public unless the defense can prove unequivocally that the release of those records will influence a jury. Grygiel said the defense’s arguments haven’t met that burden of proof.
The law is “very clearly in favor of transparency and openness rather than impoundment and secrecy,” Grygiel said. “It’s simply not our system, even in very high-profile criminal cases such as this one.”
Hernandez, dressed in a suit and handcuffed, was also in court yesterday for a probable-cause hearing, which Judge O’Shea continued to Aug. 22 upon the request of the Bristol County District Attorney’s office.
The judge pushed back the hearing upon request of the Bristol County District Attorney’s office, which wants more time to review evidence. Assistant District Attorney William McCauley said prosecutors needed more time to review new evidence against Hernandez.
Patrick Ronan is a reporter for The Patriot Ledger in Quincy.