Back in late June, a day after being charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, it was reported that former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was also the target of an investigation into the 2012 deaths of two men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported that prosecutors have begun making the case to a Suffolk County grand jury that Hernandez should be charged in the shooting deaths of Abreu and Furtado.
“The case against Hernandez appears to be strengthening,” a law enforcement official told the Globe on condition of anonymity.
Grand juries, like public trials, have jurors. Unlike public trials, however, there is no judge or defense, and jurors listen to prosecutors and witnesses called by the prosecution. A grand jury doesn't determine guilt, but instead, by a majority vote, decides whether there is probable cause to indict a defendant.
“It's a very-one sided presentation,” Boston College Law School professor and former chief of the criminal bureau in the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office Michael Cassidy told the Globe. “The standard is probable cause, which is a fairly low standard. ...There is an expression in law enforcement that a grand jury would indict a ham sandwich if the government asked it to.”
The Globe notes that in Massachusetts, individuals charged with murder must be indicted by a grand jury before they can be placed on trial.
Boston police declined to comment to the Globe on the Suffolk grand jury, as did Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley. “The grand jury proceedings are by their nature confidential, and we do not comment on them or on open investigations,” said a spokesman for the DA's office.
According to relatives of Abreu and Furtado, Cape Verde natives, neither man knew Hernandez. Both worked for a cleaning company and didn't have criminal records.
“I just want to know for certain, that the person who did this has been caught," Furtado's mother told the Globe. "Until then, what is there for me to say? I just want justice for him. If the police are close to finding out who killed him … well, I just want them to tell me when they actually catch the person. That's what my family waits for.”
Hernandez, meanwhile, remains in jail after being denied bail in the Lloyd case. He has pleaded not guilty to killing Lloyd, and is scheduled to appear in Attleboro (Mass.) District Court Wednesday for a probable cause hearing.
The Patriots have done their best to distance themselves from the former tight end. Team owner Bob Kraft said recently that he was "duped" by Hernandez less than a year after giving him a $40 million contract extension. The Pats also offered a free jersey exchange for fans wanting to swap their Hernandez jerseys, and quarterback Tom Brady told TheMMQB.com that he has "moved on" from Hernandez and is “focusing on the great teammates I have who are committed to helping us win games."