BOSTON (CBS/AP) — A judge has set a trial date in February for former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez in the double murder case against him.
Judge Jeffrey Locke told Hernandez’s lawyers on Tuesday to consider the date Feb. 13 “very firm” after they said they could not be ready for trial by the fall.
Hernandez already is serving a life sentence for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.
He appeared in Suffolk Superior Court on Tuesday for the status hearing in the 2012 killings of two men outside a Boston nightclub. Hernandez is accused of opening fire on their car. He has pleaded not guilty.
Hernandez recently hired a new legal team, including Jose Baez, who successfully defended Casey Anthony in her 2011 trial in the death of her daughter.
Baez mistakenly referred to his client as “Aaron Rodriguez,” before correcting himself at the beginning of the court appearance.
In court Tuesday, Baez told Judge Jeffrey Locke that he may seek to keep jurors from hearing the descriptions of the shooter given by the three men who survived the shooting. Baez said the descriptions “have changed over time,” including after Hernandez was publicly identified as a suspect.
“You don’t want a witness’s testimony to be tainted in any way, and I’m certain the state doesn’t want that either,” Baez said after the hearing. “So I think in the interests of justice everyone wants them to be able to describe what they saw at that time. Unfortunately, these descriptions have changed, so we’re going to be addressing that.”
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan said prosecutors expect to identify up to 300 potential witnesses for the trial, although not all of them are expected to testify.
Daniel De Abreu and Safiro Furtado were close friends who attended school and served in the military together in Cape Verde before coming to the United States. They were shot about six weeks before Hernandez signed a five-year, $40 million contract with the Patriots. He went on to catch 51 passes and score five touchdowns that season, his last in the NFL. He was charged in the killings in May 2014.
Hernandez is due back in court Oct. 3 for a status conference.
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