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Murder suspect Aaron Hernandez flashed toothy grins and mouthed "I love you" to his mother during a court appearance that sent his alleged victim's anguished mother dashing from the room in tears.
The former Patriots star, charged in Odin Lloyd's murder, appeared in a Fall River, Mass., courtroom Monday confident, if not cocky, as not only his fiancee and mother supportively watched from behind, but several fans, too.
Ursula Ward, whose 27-year-old son was found slain execution-style in an industrial park in June, broke down and had to leave the room at the mere sight of her son's alleged killer.
Defense attorneys for the 24-year-old former player went before a judge requesting a gag order against the media over allegations that leaks by the state could jeopardize his right to a fair trial. A trial date has yet to be set for Hernandez.
Defense attorney Michael Fee blamed prosecutors for out-of-court statements reported in the media that he says have tarnished the former player.
"Mr. Hernandez is entitled to a fair trial," Fee told Judge Susan Garsh during the hourlong proceeding. "He is entitled to a jury panel that has not been poisoned by either false or sensational statements."
The judge did not immediately rule on the defense's request for a formal gag order.
Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June shooting death of Lloyd, who was a semiprofessional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancee.
Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who appeared alongside his mother while dolled up in red lipstick, is facing a perjury charge related to her testimony before the grand jury that indicted Hernandez. She has pleaded not guilty.
In a November filing, Hernandez's attorneys said the state had "flouted" the rules of professional conduct and disregarded the judge's admonition against prejudicial out-of-court commentary.
The defense said the prosecution orchestrated a "publicity stunt" in October, when authorities served Miami Dolphin Michael Pouncey with a subpoena related to the case after playing the Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. Pouncey played football with Hernandez at the University of Florida.
The defense said serving the subpoena in that way and statements to the media attributed to law enforcement sources whipped up more publicity about the case.
The prosecution has not commented publicly on the subpoena.
In court Monday, Assistant District Attorney William McCauley denied the allegations, saying no leaks have come from the district attorney's office or the investigative team.
"We are playing fair," he said. "We've agreed to the rules of professional conduct, and we're abiding by them."
McCauley accused the defense of misconduct by calling into question the state's integrity, without evidence of who was responsible for any leaks.
Despite sparring in court, the two sides agreed in principle on the issuance of a gag order. The judge asked both to submit specific proposals for a formal order, both due in January.
Hernandez, who's from Bristol, Conn., was in court Monday but did not speak.
Prosecutors allege Hernandez killed Lloyd because he was upset with him for talking to some people at a nightclub with whom Hernandez had problems.