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SI legal expert Michael McCann on D&C: Aaron Hernandez case not the ‘slam dunk we thought it was’

02.04.14 at 9:51 am ET
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Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss the Aaron Hernandez trial. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Alexander Bradley, who filed a lawsuit against Hernandez in February alleging that the then-Patriots tight end shot him in the face, was shot several times in the leg at a Hartford club over the weekend. He is one of four people associated with Hernandez’s case who has either died or been injured since Hernandez was arrested in June.

“It’€™s frightening,” McCann said. “If you know something about Hernandez and you know that three people have died and another has been shot repeatedly, it has to be frightening to think if you go to authorities and say you know something, the same fate could befall you.”

While McCann said there was “a lot of damning evidence,” he also pointed out that Hernandez’€™s lawyers could find a way out of the first-degree murder charge.

“Let’€™s face it — there’€™s still no murder weapon that has been found,” McCann said. “There’€™s also the odd coincidence of a number of people that have been connected to Hernandez that could testify against him either dying or being shot. … And then of course there’€™s the fact that the other evidence against him –€“ there are questions about it.

“Text messages, the video equipment, the possible destruction of evidence — these are things that could be damning, but Hernandez’€™s lawyers may be able to provide a little bit of doubt so that at least one juror says, ‘I’m not convinced,’ and then we have a hung jury.

“I don’t think it’€™s the slam dunk case we thought it was back in June, that’s for sure.”

Although McCann is not convinced Hernandez will be found guilty of murder, he said he believes the former Patriot will spend time in jail after the trial.

“If I had to make a prediction, I think there’€™s a very compelling case that he’€™ll be guilty on weapons charges, so he isn’t going to leave prison,” McCann said. “They could find the murder weapon next week. Someone else could appear. Things could change in the story. But right now, the odds are in his favor.”

Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.

On alleged accomplice Carlos Ortiz: “It seems as if [the prosecutors] don’€™t believe what he’€™s saying. He’€™s changed his story, reportedly. If he isn’t a good witness, they have less incentive to cut a good deal with him because he isn’t as helpful. So I don’€™t think he’s going to get a long sentence if he’s convicted, but I also think he probably hurt himself by not being transparent apparently and by not providing a clear narrative as to what happened. Once he changed his story, he becomes a lot less useful because now Hernandez’s lawyers can say you can’t trust this guy.”

On Hernandez being charged with second-degree murder or manslaughter: “In Massachusetts, juries can basically ratchet down the charge in terms of murder to second-degree and manslaughter, and that is possible. That could be a compromised verdict where the jury isn’t convinced there’s first-degree.

“I also think it’s worth noting he faces five other charges for weapons that in total impose up to 29 years in prison. If he’s convicted more likely it’d be much less than that — in the 5-7, 5-9 range. So even if, let’€™s say, he’€™s able to escape a conviction on murder, he still faces some time in prison and it’s going to be a lot easier to prove weapons charges because those go with possession — did he have them. He can say, ‘Well, they weren’t mine. I didn’t touch them,’ but there’€™s video suggesting otherwise.”

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