The judge presiding over the murder case against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez refused to step aside Monday, saying she is not biased against the lead prosecutor and would be fair to both sides.
“Considerations other than the law have not and will not color any of my rulings,” Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said in ruling from the bench.
The lead prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley, asserted that Garsh made erroneous rulings and treated him with disrespect in a 2010 murder trial and, therefore, should recuse herself.
In something of a surprise move, Bristol County District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter announced shortly after the hearing that he would not appeal Judge Garsh’s ruling.
Sutter was asked if he was confident that Garsh could be fair when Hernandez goes before a jury, probably sometime in 2014.
“She said that she was going to be, and I take her at her word,” Sutter replied.
Prosecutors have alleged that Hernandez, 23, was angry with Lloyd after seeing him talk with people the player had problems with at a Boston nightclub.
Late the night of June 16, according to court documents, prosecutors have asserted that Hernandez contacted Lloyd about getting together and simultaneously summoned two associates from his hometown of Bristol, Conn., to his mansion in North Attleboro, Mass. At that point, prosecutors allege that Hernandez drove Ernest Wallace Jr., 41, and Carlos Ortiz, 27, to the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston, where they picked up Lloyd.
Hernandez has been accused of driving to a secluded field back in North Attleboro, then shooting and killing Lloyd.
Lloyd, 27, was the boyfriend of Shaneah Jenkins — the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins.
Five others face charges in the case — Shayanna Jenkins has been accused of perjury; Wallace and Ortiz have been indicted as accessories after the fact; a cousin of Hernandez’s, Tanya Singleton, has been charged with contempt of court and conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact; and a man named Alexander Bradley was arrested and ordered to testify before a grand jury investigating a 2012 double murder in south Boston.
Prosecutors are probing a possible link to Hernandez in that case.
Monday’s hearing had nothing to do with the evidence against Hernandez in Lloyd’s death – and everything to do with maneuvering for an advantage when the case goes to trial, which is expected sometime in 2014.
McCauley, Bristol County’s first assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor in Lloyd’s killing, sought to have Garsh step aside based on his interaction with her in a 2010 murder trial.
In that trial, a jury found George Duarte guilty of murder in the shooting death of a 15-year-old New Year’s reveler.
Garsh sentenced Duarte to life in prison.
After the verdict, McCauley took the unusual step of publicly criticizing Garsh, the New Bedford Standard-Times reported.
“The commonwealth’s evidence, painstakingly gathered in spite of uncooperative witnesses’ attempts to deny it, was repeatedly limited or excluded by the trial judge, who exhibited antagonism to the commonwealth’s case throughout the course of the trial,” he said at the time, according to the Standard-Times.
In court Monday, McCauley argued that Garsh’s rulings in that trial favored the defense and that she repeatedly showed him disrespect in front of the jury.
“I had never filed such a motion, but I felt it was necessary because I felt there had been antagonism shown toward the commonwealth and myself,” McCauley said.
He pointed out that he filed a motion in 2011 to have Garsh remove herself from another murder case he was prosecuting but that she stepped aside because of a scheduling conflict and never ruled on it.
“This is not an effort as it’s been suggested to judge shop,” McCauley said. “This is an effort to deal with a motion that has been on file — was filed 2-1/2 years ago.”
Defense attorney James Sultan argued forcefully, however, that losing rulings before a judge is a part of life.
“The fact that a judge may rule against me in a case does not give me a lifetime exemption from having to appear in front of that judge again,” Sultan said.
And he said there was no justification for Garsh stepping aside — that even if the events occurred as McCauley described them, trials are stressful proceedings that sometimes see people grow short with each other.
“That’s not good enough for recusal,” Sultan said. “That’s part of life. We all have to deal with that.”
Garsh ruled immediately from the bench, saying she would not step aside.
“I do not fear or favor the commonwealth or the defendant,” Garsh said. “I have examined my emotions and consulted my conscience, and I am satisfied that I harbor no bias as a result of anything that happened in the 2010 case or ADA McCauley’s statements outside of court following that case.”