Former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez appeared in court today to hear his attorneys argue that media coverage of the case has potentially "poisoned" the jury pool before the ex-NFL player's upcoming murder trial.
Hernandez, 23, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the execution-style slaying of his friend, semipro football player Odin Lloyd, 27. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty and was ordered held without bail in a Bristol County, Mass., lockup since his arrest in June.
The former NFL standout sat at the defense table today in a black suit, his handcuffs removed, as defense attorney Michael Fee argued that prosecutors have leaked prejudicial stories that could impede his right to a fair trial.
In court papers, Fee argued that the Bristol County District Attorney's office investigators orchestrated a "publicity stunt" when Dolphins center Mike Pouncey was served with a subpoena to appear before a grand jury at Gillette Stadium on Oct. 27, less than an hour after the Patriots defeated Miami.
Fee cited a Sports Illustrated report in October that suggested Pouncey, a close friend and former teammate of Hernandez, was subpoenaed in connection with a gun-trafficking investigation and said that it was leaked in violation of a gag order implemented in the case since Hernandez's arraignment.
Pouncey and Hernandez were both questioned in connection with 2007 shooting in Gainsville, Fla., though neither was charged, according to police documents obtained by ABC News.
"He is entitled to a fair trial, he is entitled to a jury panel that has not been poisoned," Fee argued in front of Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh.
Prosecutors not only denied that its investigators were the source but added that the story was inaccurate.
"It's simply not true,'' Bristol County District Attorney William McCauley told the court. "There is no strategy in giving false information to reporters."
Pouncey was served with a subpoena, but it was not connected to a gun-trafficking investigation, McCauley told the court.
Hernandez's mother and fianceé Shayana Jenkins were among the spectators at the Fall River Justice Center. As lawyers for both the government and the former NFL player argued, Hernandez turned around and mouthed "I love you" to his mother, who wiped at tears as Jenkins rubbed her back.