There are hundreds of millions of reasons why 2015 should be a bright,
happy, and interesting new year for so many people. Time will only tell
whether it turns out to be so. However, when it comes to 2015, one thing
is absolutely certain. For trial watchers, CSI junkies, and courtroom
cowboys, this year is likely to be like no other in the annals of
First up, on January 5, unless the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals grants a last-minute stay pending argument on the defense teams' renewed twin motions for change of venue/to continue trial, or grants one or the other on its merits, is the federal trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (United States v. Tsarnaev, No. 13-cr-10200), a case in which the defendant faces a possible death penalty on 17 of the 30 counts in the indictment against him and where his lawyers are predicting that prosecutors are "likely to depict the crimes as having affected not only those killed and injured but nearly the entire greater Boston community." With United States District Court Judge George O'Toole calling for an initial jury pool of 1,200 prospective jurors, even the voir dire (jury selection) phase of this trial will be compelling in its own right and barring an 11th hour negotiation that results in a plea to life in prison without parole in exchange for sparing the defendant's life (an unlikely development at this point), or a decision by the defendant to plead guilty to the guilt phase of his trial, but contest the [death] penalty phase (still a plausible last-minute development), the two-part trial, even under an expedited full [four] day schedule, will provide daily "copy" here for easily up to six months. A bona fide domestic terror case which will draw world-wide attention and interest, there are likely going to be times when what is going on right outside the John J. Moakley Federal Courthouse in South Boston in terms of perimeter security, demonstrators, and just plain "weirdness," will create the aura of a three-ring circus. And if there is a death penalty trial immediately following pronouncement of verdicts after the guilt phase is concluded ( which a cursory view of the evidence suggests is likely; an outcome the contents of various discovery motions filed by Tsarnaev's own lawyers indicate they are, themselves, already anticipating), all I can say is "hold on to your hats." It won't just be that the parties will be litigating a literal life or death struggle in a state where the death penalty was abolished on October 18, 1984, and no execution has been carried out since 1947, but also that debate over aggravating (heinous, nature; 3 deaths—4 with Officer Collier, 269 victims; grave risk to others; etc.) factors versus mitigating factors like Tsarnaev's age; lack of criminal record; and potential brainwashing/fear of his older brother will be divisive and hotly debated. In other words, it is an understatement to say the Tsarnaev trial will be one of the most talked about and widely "viewed" (alas, TV cameras are not allowed in federal courtrooms) trials of this century.
And that's just the first week of January. A mere four days later,
former New England Patriot wide-receiver Aaron Hernandez, and two others,
are scheduled to go on trial in
Adding to the buzz is the fact that the outcome in Hernandez is far-from pre-determined. A seemingly strong case for the prosecution that initially appeared to be centered on eye-witness testimony from a cooperating co-defendant (Carlos Ortiz) devolved into one wholly based on circumstantial evidence when either Ortiz recanted his testimony, or prosecutors labeled him "unreliable" (or a combination of both), and he too was ultimately charged with the Lloyd murder, on a joint venture theory, along with Hernandez and co-defendant Earnest Wallace. This, plus the fact that the prosecution has yet to find the alleged murder weapon (not required for a murder 1 conviction, but certainly helpful), apparently won't be able to suggest a motive (also not required, but also quite helpful) based on a recent ruling by Judge Susan Garsh, and suffered a series of setbacks in terms of evidence the Judge either suppressed (cell phones, tablets, and an illegal automatic rifle) or ruled inadmissible (text messages between Lloyd and his sister right before his murder in which Lloyd said he was "with NFL," their nickname for Hernandez, has provided the defense team with plenty of toeholds to exploit to their client's benefit and argue constitute "not just a single reasonable doubt, but a plethora of it."
Still the prosecutors remain confident, and a recent proffer of evidence regarding a prospective witness and Hernandez crony who will testify he checked a drawer at Hernandez' request and felt what appeared to be a large handgun wrapped in a black T shirt in Hernandez' dresser, which Hernandez later admitted was a .45, the same caliber as the alleged murder weapon, ought to result in a decision by Judge Garsh to admit/allow his related testimony. "Bombshell" testimony like that, the as-yet undisclosed testimony of former confidante, now cooperator Alexander Bradley (I'm guessing regarding, at least, his knowledge of what kind of gun(s) Hernandez owned), testimony about when and where Lloyd was picked up before his murder, shell casings matching the alleged murder weapon found in a car Hernandez rented, the notorious cherry bubble gum, surveillance tapes showing Hernandez' rental vehicle heading into the industrial park, and then leaving it at a time commensurate with the murder, and grainy video footage from Hernandez' own internal security tapes depicting him brandishing what appears to be a handgun shortly after the murder, could each help make a compelling circumstantial case that results in the erstwhile NFL star spending the rest of his natural life behind bars. A true battle royal over which inferences can be reasonably drawn from the evidence and which cannot, the Hernandez trial will be one that is sure to be fought by attorneys by the inch rather than the mile and is likely to go wire to wire, keeping us all in suspense and in our seats (in front of the television; allowed in state courts) from start to finish!
Of course, should
Tsarnaev start as scheduled, and the Odin Lloyd murder trial last the six weeks
to two months that is currently anticipated,
Tsarnaev will still be ongoing even after the courtroom drama in
Hernandez has ended, which for trial junkies will be like going from the frying pan
into the fire, and then back to the frying pan. But that's not all.
In September, after
Tsarnaev has presumably concluded, the second death penalty trial for former drifter
Gary Lee Sampson is also set to start in
And after that? Aaron Hernandez is facing a presumptive 2015 trial date in yet another Massachusetts murder case, this one a double homicide allegedly occurring outside a Boston nightclub where he is accused of gunning-down two victims, Safiro Furtado and Daniel Abreu. Whether or not his overworked defense team will be forced to conduct two first degree murder trials for the same client in the same year, or will be prepared to, is not certain. What is certain, should Hernandez be acquitted in Bristol County of murder in the Odin Lloyd case, is that he's not going anywhere and will remain locked up, without bail, pending trial in Suffolk County. And in case of an acquittal in Bristol County, Suffolk County Prosecutors will not only be that much more determined, and motivated, to take his case to trial but forced to be even more reliant on the bargained-for testimony of his former confederate, and unindicted co-conspirator, Alexander Bradley.
While all this is going on, the tragic rape and murder of
At the same time, while not likely to be scheduled for trial in spite of Federal Court Administrators new "best practices" procedures designed to expedite docketing of federal jury trials in the District of Massachusetts, there is no doubt the racketeering (RICO) case involving executives of the New England Compounding Lab (NECC) in Framingham, in United States v. Barry J. Cadden,et al, No. 14-cr-10363, will be generating heat and activity as defense attorneys will try to separate the majority of clients from the two murder charges and/or assail the government's claim that a drug compounding lab had the structure, organization, and shared criminal intent to be run and function as a "criminal enterprise."
Whew! It's exhausting and exciting just writing about all this, but
here's one prediction I don't need to consult the lateJeane Dixon
about. In 2015, the
About the author:
Brad Bailey was a felony prosecutor in Manhattan (NY) and an Assistant
District Attorney in Middlesex County (MA), where he prosecuted murders,
sex crimes and serious narcotics trafficking cases. He went on to prosecute
federal drug crimes and the mafia/organized crime as an Assistant U.S.
Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office in