Aaron Hernandez Press Release
Credit: The Associated Press
FILE – In this March 15, 2017 file photo, Jose Baez, defense attorney for defendant Aaron Hernandez, left, holds an evidence photo as he speaks to the jury during Hernandez’s double-murder trial in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Baez won an acquittal for Hernandez, and for Casey Anthony in 2011 in the death of her toddler. (AP Photo/Elize Amendola, Pool, File)
Jose Baez: Aaron Hernandez acquittal burnishes lawyer’s reputation
Associated Press Sunday, April 30, 2017
BOSTON — During Aaron Hernandez’s double murder trial, the former NFL star’s lawyer wanted to drive home his point that the prosecution’s star witness was a “three-legged pony” whose testimony could not be believed. So he galloped like a horse in front of the jury.
It was vintage Jose Baez: flashy, theatrical and willing to do anything for his clients.
With Hernandez’s acquittal, Baez burnished his status as one of the most recognized defense attorneys in the U.S., six years after his high-profile gig successfully defending Casey Anthony, the Florida mother accused of killing her toddler because she didn’t want the responsibility of raising a child.
His no-holds-barred style has won him both praise and scorn.
Prosecutors who have gone up against Baez say there is nothing he won’t do to win, while defense attorneys who have worked with call him a brilliant strategist who rips open holes in the prosecution’s case.
“If you were ever in trouble, you would want Jose Baez by your side,” said Linda Kenney Baden, who represented music producer Phil Spector in his 2007 murder trial and has worked with Baez on three cases, including the Anthony and Hernandez trials.
The Anthony and Hernandez cases initially seemed like slam dunks for prosecutors.
Anthony had repeatedly lied to the police, and witnesses said they smelled a dead body in her car trunk. But Baez hammered at a hole in the prosecution’s case — uncertainty about how the little girl died — and raised doubt among jurors.
In the Hernandez case, he relentlessly attacked the credibility of the prosecution’s star witness, an admitted drug dealer who was with Hernandez the night two men were killed in a drive-by shooting in Boston. Baez told the jury the man had identified Hernandez as the triggerman to get immunity and save his own skin.
Baez, 48, based in Florida, was relatively inexperienced and unknown before the Anthony trial.
While in law school, he had a one-day stint in the Miami-Dade County prosecutor’s office but said it “didn’t feel right” to him, so he walked across the street to the public defender’s office and offered to work there instead.
“I absolutely fell in love with it,” he said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I got to deal with real people and help them with real problems.”
During the Anthony trial, Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera popularized the nickname “Juanie Cochran” for Baez, comparing him to the late Johnnie Cochran, the flamboyant lawyer who helped win acquittal for O.J. Simpson.
Celebrity was something Baez never expected. He dropped out of high school and married his girlfriend after she became pregnant, and later earned his GED while in the Navy.
After getting his law degree at Florida’s St. Thomas University, the state bar association prevented him from practicing law for eight years, citing his failure to keep up with child support payments and other debts.
He was admitted to practice law in 2005, and just three years later took on the Anthony case. The trial fascinated the nation, with every twist and turn live-streamed and followed obsessively on social media and in the tabloids.
Jeff Ashton, one of the prosecutors in the Anthony case, derides Baez as a “wonderful salesman.”
“He’s not terribly professional in his demeanor,” Ashton said. “He just sort of does whatever he thinks he should do to sell the case without a whole lot of regard to whether it’s, in fact, ethically or legally the proper thing to do.”
Baez also represented Nilton Diaz, acquitted of murder but convicted of manslaughter in the death of the 2-year-old granddaughter of World Boxing Champion Wilfredo Vazquez. He also defended a 12-year-old girl charged with aggravated stalking in connection with the suicide of another girl. The charges were dropped.
Baez said he has never lost a first- or second-degree murder case out of 11 that have gone to trial. He attributes his success to his ability to relate to jurors from all walks of life.
“I was raised to treat the janitor with as much respect as you treat the CEO. The reason for that is simple,” he said. “My mother WAS the janitor, she WAS the maid. She had a 6th-grade education, came here from Puerto Rico and supported four children on her own, without any help from anyone.”
Baez’s brash approach has sometimes angered prosecutors. In the Hernandez trial, the defense suggested that the victims may have been involved in drugs and gangs, and that the real killer’s motive was a failed drug deal. A medical examiner testified that there were drugs in the system of one of the victims.
After the acquittal, prosecutor Daniel Conley said portraying the victims that way was unnecessary.
Baez’s work didn’t result in freedom for Hernandez, who was already in prison for an earlier murder; Baez didn’t represent him in that trial. Five days after he was acquitted, Hernandez was dead of an apparent suicide in his prison cell.
Baez’s work for his client didn’t end there.
The next day, he claimed the state medical examiner was illegally withholding Hernandez’s brain, preventing his family from donating it to research. State officials denied Baez’s claim and said they held onto Hernandez’s brain only during an autopsy.
By Travis Andersen GLOBE STAFF APRIL 14, 2017
A jury on Friday cleared Aaron Hernandez of committing a double murder in 2012, handing the former New England Patriots star his first significant legal victory since his shocking arrest for a third slaying in 2013.
But by day’s end, Hernandez, whose career highlights included a Super Bowl touchdown and a $40 million contract, was returned to Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, where he is serving a life sentence without a chance of parole for his earlier conviction for fatally shooting Odin L. Lloyd in June 2013.
His latest trial lasted a month, and the jury deliberated for six days. He nodded and choked back tears when the verdict came down Friday afternoon — not guilty on every charge except one, a gun-related crime.
Hernandez, 27, turned toward Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, his longtime fiancee and the mother of his daughter, and said, “I love you.”
After rendering their verdict Friday, jurors declined to comment, except for a brief statement that foreperson Lindsey Stringer read. She said the jury “based our decision on the evidence presented and the law” but took no questions from reporters.
Relatives of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, the two men Hernandez was charged with killing in July 2012, sobbed when the acquittal came down in Suffolk Superior Court.
Maria Teixeira, Furtado’s mother, struggled to keep her composure before the verdict was even announced and later left the courtroom in tears.
Family members declined to comment as they left the courtroom, but before they stepped outside, one relative called out, “He got away with murder!”
When the verdict came down, Jenkins-Hernandez, his fiancee, cried, holding the hands of two friends and nodding furiously with her eyes shut. She later told reporters she was “very happy.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Ronald Sullivan, one of Hernandez’s lawyers, who said the “actual perpetrator of this crime was given immunity by the Commonwealth. He [Hernandez] was charged with something that someone else did.’’
Sullivan was referring to Alexander Bradley, the star prosecution witness, who testified under an immunity deal.
Bradley told jurors he was driving Hernandez’s Toyota 4Runner when the athlete reached across him and fired five shots into the victims’ BMW in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012.
The defense argued that Bradley, an admitted drug dealer currently jailed in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford club in 2014, shot de Abreu and Furtado over a drug sale.
District Attorney Daniel F. Conley bristled at what he said was the defense’s “inappropriate” portrayal of the victims, two immigrants who worked nights cleaning offices.
“These were two hard-working, humble Cape Verdean immigrants trying to make a life here in this country,” Conley said. “These were two good young men whose lives were ruthlessly and senselessly taken.”
Bradley’s testimony over three-plus days on the stand was often riveting.
He portrayed Hernandez as a wildly impulsive athlete who, despite his fame and limitless potential, was prone to rages over minor slights, especially at the Boston clubs they frequented.
One such instance occurred at Cure Lounge about two hours before the killings, Bradley said, when de Abreu bumped into Hernandez and spilled a drink on him. Rather than apologize, de Abreu smirked at Hernandez, touching off the deadly drive-by at the corner of Shawmut Avenue and Herald Street, according to Bradley.
He said Hernandez became increasingly paranoid in the months after the killings, banning friends from using iPhones in his presence and constantly looking over his shoulder for undercover detectives. He even thought police were tracking him from the sky by helicopter.
His paranoia reached a fever pitch early on Feb. 13, 2013, Bradley said, when Hernandez shot him in an SUV after a night of heavy partying in South Florida and left him for dead in a parking lot.
The jury refused to credit that account as well, acquitting Hernandez of a witness intimidation charge stemming from the alleged Florida shooting. Hernandez was also cleared of firing at the three surviving victims in the South End drive-by, but was convicted of illegal gun possession. He was immediately sentenced to serve four to five years in prison on that charge.
In a trial that saw more than 60 witnesses, the bulk of the case seemed to turn on Bradley, Hernandez’s former friend and drug supplier.
The prosecution’s key witness calmly told jurors he lost his right eye when a bullet from Hernandez’s gun struck him in the face.
He has a prosthetic right eye and wore glasses during the trial, and occasionally glanced at Hernandez and shook his head, apparently still in disbelief over his former friend’s alleged actions.
Jose Baez, Hernandez’s lead attorney, aggressively attacked Bradley’s credibility, deriding him on the stand as “a killer” nicknamed Rocky because “you rock people to sleep.”
He highlighted Bradley’s correspondence with Hernandez after the Florida shooting, when he threatened to sue and kill the athlete, bragged about his personal weapons arsenal, and said he had “wolves” ready to assist him in committing acts of violence.
And in perhaps the most damaging blow to Bradley’s credibility, Baez repeatedly pointed to a text he sent to his lawyer in July 2013 expressing concern about being charged with perjury in a related case. Bradley had asked his attorney if he could be charged with perjury for telling a grand jury “the truth about not being able to recall . . . who shot me.”
But Bradley was generally unflappable during cross examination, repeatedly calling Hernandez’s attorney “Mr. Baez” in a sneering tone.
Prosecutors also had strong moments, including First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan’s impassioned, 90-minute closing argument.
He reminded jurors that the “murder car,” Hernandez’s 4Runner, was found hidden in a Bristol, Conn., garage belonging to Tanya Singleton, Hernandez’s closest relative, nearly a year after the killings.
He also said the murder weapon was recovered from a woman with links to Hernandez. And, Haggan urged jurors to remember that Hernandez got a tattoo in the spring of 2013 depicting a six-shot revolver cylinder with one empty chamber, as well as the phrase “God Forgives” on his right arm.
“What is he asking God to forgive?” Haggan asked.
Initially during deliberations, a question from the jurors led some observers to speculate that the panel was leaning toward a conviction. Jurors asked Judge Jeffrey Locke on the day they got the case if they needed corroboration to back up specific testimony from an immunized witness, if they believed the statements provided “enough evidence for a conviction.”
Baez, Hernandez’s lawyer, said in a brief phone interview that the defense team was “shocked” when the jury put that question to Locke.
At the same time, however, he thought at least two jurors were against a conviction, based on their body language and demeanor at trial.
Legal analysts who watched the case said they were not surprised by the acquittal, because the case rested on Bradley, a convicted felon and Hernandez’s marijuana dealer, a difficult witness for jurors to find credible.
Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said he respects the jury but disagrees with the verdicts.
“The evidence in this case all points to Aaron Hernandez as the sole person responsible for the tragic and untimely deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado,” Evans wrote in a statement.
Conley, the district attorney, said the victims’ families are taking solace in the fact that Hernandez returned to prison after the verdict.
“That’s certainly comforting to the families downstairs,” Conley said. “In fact, that was said by one of the family members — ‘at least he’s not walking out the door today.’ ”
Hernandez’s appeal hearing in connection with the earlier murder case is before the Supreme Judicial Court and has not yet been scheduled. The court could either uphold his conviction in the Lloyd case or order a new trial in Bristol Superior Court in Fall River.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: June 8, 2016
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF AARON HERNANDEZ
I can now confirm that my firm has been retained to represent Mr. Aaron Hernandez in his upcoming trial. Mr. Hernandez strongly maintains his innocence, and I plan to establish that before a jury of his peers.
I have fully committed myself to ensuring a fair and just trial for Mr. Hernandez. To accomplish this, I have assembled the best legal team in the country to serve as co-counsel. The legal team will consist of me, as lead counsel, Harvard Law Professor and criminal law expert Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., renowned criminal defense attorney and trial expert Alex Spiro, and forensic science expert Linda Kenny Baden.
We understand that numerous reports of our client’s alleged activity have been published, but we ask the public to afford Mr. Hernandez the presumption of innocence and let the facts unfold in a court of law.
Jose Baez, Esq.
CC: Ron Sullivan, Esq., Alex Spiro Esq., Linda Kenny Baden Esq.