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Hernandez judge denies gag order request

  • Former NFL star is accused in the slaying of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd
  • Aaron Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to all charges
  • Tuesday hearing addressed the case's publicity, a potential conflict of interest and the judge's potential removal from the trial
Aaron Hernandez faces murder charges in the slaying of Odin Lloyd.

The case against former NFL star Aaron Hernandez

The case against former NFL star Aaron Hernandez

Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez took the stand briefly Tuesday during a pre-trial hearing in which attorneys argued about "unprecedented" publicity around his murder case and discussed a potential conflict of interest for one of the defense attorneys.

Michael Fee, one of several lawyers who represent Hernandez, is a partner at the same firm as the wife of one of the prosecutors.

Judge Susan Garsh asked Hernandez if he understood the potential conflict of interest and whether he wanted Fee to remain on his legal team.

"Yes, your honor," replied Hernandez, in response to each question. 

Watch: Why Aaron Hernandez is charged with murder

Hernandez, 23, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder and five additional weapons charges related to the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player and the 27-year-old boyfriend of the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.

Prosecutors allege that Hernandez drove Lloyd to a remote spot and "orchestrated his execution." Lloyd’s bullet-riddled body was found June 17 in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez' North Attleborough home.

Read more: Inside Aaron Hernandez's world of trouble

A deputy removed Hernandez's handcuffs Tuesday before his attorneys started arguing about additional matters, including a request for the judge to issue a gag order in the case.

His defense attorneys say that law enforcement leaks to the media are undermining Hernandez's right to a fair trial.

"Unfortunately, a lot of damage has been done already but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put a stop to it if we can," said defense attorney James Sultan.

Judge Garsh denied the defense's request, saying she would revisit it again if attorneys on either side were found to have violated the rules of professional conduct in Massachusetts, which prohibit attorneys from talking publicly about the case.

An additional motion regarding evidence was also discussed, and the judge told prosecutors to inform the defense if any evidence from the case is destroyed or altered.

Read more: Aaron Hernandez pleads not guilty to all charges

The next pre-trial hearing in Hernandez's case has been set for October 21, when the prosecution will make its argument for why they believe Judge Garsh should remove herself from the case. Assistant District Attorney William McCauley didn't go into the reasons why he wants a new judge, but said the prosecution "does not take lightly the motion to recuse."

Hernandez has been holed up in a Bristol County jail cell since his arrest on June 26. He was cut by the New England Patriots just hours after being placed in cuffs.

The football star was indicted on first-degree murder and weapon charges August 23. Defense attorney Michael Fee has said that he is pleased with the indictment because it gives his client "a path to trial," and that a jury will find Hernandez "innocent."

If convicted, Hernandez could face a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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