The judge overseeing the murder trial of ex- New England Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez warned the victim’s mother to not cry on the stand in front of jurors Wednesday, a reference to the two previous days she left the courtroom in tears when seeing photos of her son’s body at the morgue.
I have been on the other side of the crying and emotional witness before, in criminal cases with far less severe and less horrific outcomes than this case. As a defense attorney, there is a fine line to walk with an emotional witness; you do not want to be too abrasive but you still need questions answered and our theory has to come across with the jury. To our chagrin, the judges generally give wide latitudes to a witness and their emotions as long as they are responsive and not a disruption.
In this case, the judge may be harsher on the witnesses because the prosecution’s case has been largely circumstantial. No direct evidence has been or will be introduced. There is no offer of the murder weapon, no offer of a witness to the crime. No offer of a motive for the killing and no forensics linking Mr. Hernandez to the commission of the crime.
The fact is the prosecution has a weak case in a capital crime prosecution. It is possible that emotional testimony could subliminally be the deciding factor.
The judge knows this and he does not like it. One man lost his life and another stands to lose his freedom- the outcome should be based on tangible evidence, not the emotions of an obviously grieving and weeping mother.
From what I have read of the evidence I have little doubt Hernandez participated in the killing, but I don’t think capitalizing on emotion is the correct way to go to gain a conviction.