The double murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez is back underway on Monday morning and things got heated very quickly, even before the jury stepped into the courtroom or a witness took the stand.
One of Hernandez’s defense attorneys, Ronald Sullivan, the faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop, got into a heated exchange with Judge Jeffrey Locke during a motion hearing prior to the start of todays’s testimony.
It started over Sullivan’s belief that Judge Locke was interrupting him (and the defense team as a whole) far more than he did the prosecution. When Judge Locke cut Sullivan off again, he had enough and let the judge know about it.
“Are you done,” Judge Locke said after a heated exchange.
Sullivan quickly shot back, “Well, if your Honor keeps interrupting me, then of course I’m done.”
The two men then began to argue about what each thought the defense team represented to the judge at an earlier sidebar (off camera). The issue seemed to be whether the court had made a ruling about what defense counsel could say during the testimony of a certain witness. The judge believed his ruling was clear, but Sullivan then argued the judge’s ruling of denied Hernandez his 6th Amendment Rights.
The judge then moved on to hear a proffer from the prosecution, essentially outlining what an upcoming witness was going to testify about on the stand. Sullivan then let loose again about his belief that the court only interrupted defense counsel and never interrupted the prosecution when it spoke on an issue.
“This Court does not say nor suggest by its statements or its conduct that the Commonwealth is wasting the Court’s time,” a clearly agitated Sullivan said. “When I am representing someone who faces mandatory life imprisonment for two double murders.
“And this Court consistently cuts off this team, consistency makes references that what we are saying is unimportant, frivolous, or taking up too much of this Court’s time. And I think its unfair, it violates the Due Process Clause, it is an indication of judicial interference that is inappropriate . . . I’ve never been in a court across this country where the court consistency interrupts one side . . . it’s inappropriate your Honor and I am going to request that this Court treat us in the same way that it treats the Commonwealth.”
The judge then suggested to Sullivan that if he would make his arguments succinct, he would be less likely to be interrupted. He also said that he was unaware of any murder case where a Court has heard more from defense counsel than it has in this case.
Sullivan said he was not responsible for other members of the defense team and he said he had “nothing to do with what other attorneys do in the courthouse.” He was simply going to continue to do his duty of representing his client to the best of his ability, unless the court told him to be quiet.
At that moment, it felt like Sullivan was one word away from being held in contempt by Judge Locke. However, things did soon calm down and amazingly the whole episode ended without anymore outbursts.
We can only hope the testimony on Monday will be half as exciting.
[image via screengrab]