Apparently fed up with the comparisons between his former teammate Ray Lewis and Aaron Hernandez, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith took to Twitter on Thursday afternoon: "Crazy how Ray still gets talked about in relation to Hernandez incident," he wrote. "When it has nothing to do with this and he wasn't convicted."
The cases were different: One was allegedly done with a knife. One with a gun. One victim was a stranger and one was an alleged friend. But the arrest and charging of Hernandez quickly brought to the Lewis case to the forefront of social media and talk radio. That case ended in a way, at least to this point, that Hernandez can only hope for: Lewis pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges.
So how similar are the cases? Lewis' defense attorney, Ed Garland, who has also represented Ben Rothlisberger among other NFLers in criminal cases, points to a few factors that are true among all big cases: A huge media presence that can affect the defense's strategy and a huge amount of money to hire the best expert witnesses, a large team of lawyers and investigators to figure out what really happened and if there's any chance of getting Hernandez out of prison.
The first steps lawyers take in cases like these, Garland says, is to control the media before it poisons your jury pool.
"You are extremely alert to the fact that there's going to be media everywhere and the media are going to frame a perspective on your client certainly that's happening in Hernandez case at this time," he said. "Of course what has been coming out and coming out rapidly are all facts which incriminate or appear to incriminate him if they're true. So the first decision is how do you deal with the media issue: Do you start making comments or do you take the position that we’re investigating this case and I’ll have comments for later and make a brief statement to the press so at first?"
Then, it's controlling the entourage of agents, publicists and other members of the football star's team.
"The lawyer has to establish he is the general who must be obeyed and establish the trust with the client where the client will let the lawyer make the decisions and not attempt to override the lawyers' decisions on the defense," he said.
As for the individual cases themselves, Garland says there are, according to reports, issues of childhood friends in both cases.
"It certainly grows out of an environment in which associates of the athlete apparently play some role," he said. "And I don't think anyone knows the full facts of this case and from the media reports I've read, I’m unclear (if) there are other people, but you have the similarity that you come from the environment in which there were outside influences from his childhood."
The biggest difference, at least so far in the case, he says, is that the Ravens were willing to work with their star player and were informed of possible holes in the prosecution's case throughout the process. Garland said lawyers for Baltimore's squad were even part of the vetting process that selected him to represent Lewis.
“I think the difference is when the powers that existed in the Ravens took a look at the evidence there were clearly substantial questions about the guilt or innocence of Ray Lewis and they chose to honor the process," he said.
The Patriots, it seems, weren't about to wait around for more evidence or news stories to come out, could be a bad sign for Hernandez. (While Hernandez is a very good player for the Patriots, he was not nearly the kind of team icon that Lewis had become as the first draft pick in franchise history when he was charged in 2000.)
“Somewhere here the team has reached a conclusion that they are not going to follow a similar process or they have made a judgment that the evidence is overwhelming,” Garland added.
As for what happens in the future, Hernandez still has time to be cleared off of waivers by another team (though it seems unlikely that will be the case). He's currently being held in jail without bail. And his lawyers, said Garland, are likely quickly expanding their team and looking for any trace of his innocence.
Hernandez's mother, Terri Hernandez, spoke out Thursday to the Bristol Press. "All I can say is that he will be cleared of all these charges in the end," she said. "Just let it play out until the end."
Perhaps the saddest part of comparing Hernandez’s cases to others is that Lewis' case wasn't the only one with parallels. Rae Curruth was charged with attempting to murder the mother of their child, Jovan Belcher did just that before shooting himself and a Browns’ rookie was charged with attempted murder this week. And in a sad irony: Nineteen years ago this week, came one of the most famous Sports Illustrated covers of all time.
It featured O.J. Simpson with a simple headline: “The Charge: Murder."
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