Aaron Hernandez hires new defense team with notable names

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Aaron Hernandez has hired a high-profile attorney to head up his new defense team in his double homicide trial and the appeal of his 2015 murder conviction.

Jose Baez, who represented Casey Anthony when she was acquitted of murder in the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, is heading the team, which will include Harvard Law professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Alex Spiro, who represented NBA player Thabo Sefolosha in his legal battle with New York police.

Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, was convicted in the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée. Hernandez was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His previous team of attorneys, led by James Sultan, filed an appeal in that case last month. A 2015 application for an appeal had already been denied.

Hernandez is also awaiting trial on murder charges in Boston, where he is accused of gunning down two men outside a nightclub in 2012. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

"We understand that numerous reports of our client's alleged activity have been published, but we ask the public to afford Mr. Hernandez the presumption of innocence and let the facts unfold in a court of law," Baez said in a statement Wednesday.

Sullivan is a clinical professor of law and the faculty director of the Criminal Justice Institute at Harvard, according to the university's website. Harvard says Sullivan helped design and implement a Conviction Review Unit for the Brooklyn District Attorney in 2014 and that it is "regarded as the model conviction integrity program in the nation," finding 10 wrongful convictions in its first year.

Spiro, a Harvard Law School graduate, represented Sefolosha when he was found not guilty of misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest stemming from an incident in 2015 outside a New York City nightclub. Spiro is also representing Sefolosha and former NBA player Pero Antic -- who also was involved in the NYC incident -- in their civil lawsuits against the New York Police Department.

Spiro also represented two Oregon men's basketball players who sued the university after being dismissed in 2014 as a result of rape allegations.

Casey Anthony was found not guilty in July 2011 in the 2008 death of her daughter Caylee, who Anthony said during her trial drowned in the family pool.