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DA: High-profile Aaron Hernandez case brings extra pressure, 'we welcome it'

From Susan Candiotti and Laura Dolan, CNN
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Sat August 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former NFL player is charged with first-degree murder, weapons charges
  • He's charged in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd, 27
  • Hernandez has pleaded not guilty
  • DA says his career likely will be defined by case

(CNN) -- For District Attorney Sam Sutter, prosecuting fallen NFL football star Aaron Hernandez carries a kind of pressure unprecedented in his six years of service.

"Probably my career ... will be defined more by this case than all of the other things we've done," the top law enforcer in Bristol County, Massachusetts, told CNN.

"To that extent, there is added pressure. I can't say in any way that we shirk from it. We welcome it."

A crush of cameras and journalists follows Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, each time he appears in court, including Thursday, when a grand jury indicted him on a first-degree murder charge in the execution-style shooting death of friend Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez, who is being held without bail, has pleaded not guilty.

His attorney, Michael Fee, calls Hernandez an innocent man and says "there has been an incredible rush to judgment in this case."

According to a biography on his office's website, Sutter has worked to solve old homicides and "has employed a series of new and aggressive strategies to attack the problem of gun violence."

He was elected in 2006 and re-elected four years later. The Democrat lost a bid for Congress in 2012.

Aaron Hernandez indicted in murder case

Neither Sutter nor Fee can speak to the evidence because of a court-imposed gag order.

"We have won 14 out of our last 15 murder trials," Sutter said. "I think that's a pretty darn good record."

The next step in Hernandez's case is his arraignment, during which he'll be informed of the crimes he is charged with.

Hernandez also faces five weapons charges.

Co-defendant Ernest Wallace, who was allegedly in the car with Hernandez the night Lloyd was killed, also was indicted. He was charged with being accessory after the fact to murder.

The grand jury also has indicted Tanya Singleton, Hernandez' cousin, for contempt of court. She's charged with refusing to testify before a grand jury, despite being granted immunity.

Lloyd's body was found June 17, riddled with five bullets in an industrial park less than a mile from Hernandez' luxury home in North Attleborough. From there, it's roughly a 20 minute drive to the New England Patriots' Gillette Stadium.

Authorities have said Hernandez, Carlos Ortiz and Wallace picked Lloyd up from his Boston apartment.

Sources have told CNN that Ortiz, who is facing a weapons allegation, is cooperating with authorities.

Sutter won't say whether Ortiz is getting a special deal.

"Mr. Ortiz is charged with a serious crime," Sutter told CNN. "Whether or not he's indicted remains to be seen, but right now, he's not getting a pass."

In search warrant affidavits for her home, investigators allege Singleton helped Wallace escape by buying him a bus ticket to Florida.

Sutter said Singleton's refusal to testify is "definitely unusual."

"We'll see what she does. But I'm not gonna comment on her position, her defiance," Sutter said.

Singleton's lawyer, Peter Parker, declined comment to CNN. His client has pleaded not guilty.

CNN legal analyst Paul Callan suggested that Singleton's decision may indicate she's either extremely loyal or may be worried about something.

"Her refusal of immunity is very surprising," he said.

As the case moves to Massachusetts Superior Court, Hernandez continues to be held without bail. No trial date has been set.

Susan Candiotti is a CNN national correspondent. CNN's Lawrence Crook III contributed to this report.

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