Aaron Hernandez's appearance in Attleboro District Court in Massachusetts on Wednesday was just the first step in what could be a long legal process for the former New England Patriots tight end, who faces six felony charges, including first-degree murder.
Hernandez was ordered to remain in jail without bail by Judge Daniel J. O'Shea. He is legally entitled to a bail review hearing in Massachusetts Superior Court, and that could occur within days. His attorneys have not responded to a request for comment on future hearings.
Hernandez's lawyers argued that because of the constant media presence outside of his home in North Attleborough, Mass., and because of the frequent communication between the defensive team and prosecutors in previous days, Hernandez is not a flight risk.
Hernandez's next scheduled appearance in O'Hara's court has been tentatively set for July 24 for a probable cause hearing, though prosecutors could convene a grand jury before that date to seek a formal indictment, said Chris Dearborn, a criminal law professor at Suffolk University in Boston.
Dearborn, a former public defender and defense attorney, said he would expect a grand jury hearing within the next two or three weeks, at which point the case would be transferred to a Superior Court that has jurisdiction over murder cases.
"The standard for the grand jury is probable cause, which really is not a high threshold," Dearborn said. "It wouldn't be a shock at all for an indictment to return, and it doesn't mean anything at all about whether they can prove the case."
Once formally indicted, it could be months, if not over a year, until Hernandez stands trial.
Hernandez was flanked Wednesday by his team of defensive attorneys from two high-profile Boston law firms. Michael Fee, primarily known as a corporate attorney, spoke on Hernandez's behalf and made the case for bail. Fee called the prosecution's case "circumstantial" and "not strong" and successfully argued for affidavits regarding the case to be sealed.
Hernandez is also represented by James Sultan and his partner Charles Rankin, who have a long track record of serving as defense attorneys in high-profile cases and for famous clients.
"Jamie Sultan is a very highly respected criminal defense lawyer in Boston," said David Siegel, a law professor at New England Law Boston.
Sultan represented the Amirault family in post-conviction litigation of the famous Fells Acre Day Care Center child abuse case, and successfully had convictions overturned on appeal. More recently, he won new trials for two clients convicted of murder, winning appeals for Linrose Woodbine in 2012, and Thomas Toolan in 2011.
"Both (Sultan) and Charlie are really, really smart lawyers that are good at identifying issues and solving problems. Both are very talented legal writers and have a reputation for being top-notch appellate lawyers," said Dearborn, who worked for Sultan and Rankin before moving to academia. "But they both have very good trial skills, and do a phenomenal job in the court room during the trial."
That legal mettle will be tested in front of a national audience should the defense team choose to appeal the decision by O'Shea to hold Hernandez without bail.
Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was not allowed to post bond when he was arrested in 2000 on murder charges. His Atlanta-based attorney Ed Garland told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday that Hernandez's team should be "very aggressive to get bond."
Garland was successful in getting Lewis freed on $1 million bond. Lewis eventually plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges and went on to play 12 more years in the NFL before retiring after last season.
"The first thing I did was file a motion for bond, and then we supported it with all sorts of facts, claiming the weakness of the case, claiming they rushed to judgment, showing all of the positive things we could show, bringing the team owners, and on and on and on. We were able to make a substantial showing that it was a defensible case, and there was no risk of flight," Garland said.
It was notable to Garland that the Patriots did not show similar support for Hernandez. The team released Hernandez less than two hours after he was arrested, and several hours before the charges were announced publicly at the arraignment.
"That would be one of the things, if you were defending him, you would attempt to get them to hold off on that until you could make a presentation," Garland said. "That sends a bad sign."
Charges against Aaron Hernandez
Count 1: Murder
On 6/17/2013 did assault and beat Odin Lloyd, with intent to murder such person, and by such assault and beating did kill and murder such person.
Count 2: Firearm, carry without license
On 6/17/2013 did knowingly have in his possession, or under his control in a vehicle, a firearm ... or a rifle or shotgun, not then being in his residence or place of business, and not having in effect a license to carry firearms or otherwise being authorized by law to do so.
Counts 3 and 4: Firearm, possess large capacity
On 6/22/2013 did knowingly have in his possession, or did knowingly have under his control in a vehicle, a large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device therefor ... the defendant not possessing a valid Class A or Class B license to carry firearms.
Counts 5 and 6: Firearm without FID card
On 6/22/2013 did own, possess or transfer a firearm, rifle, shotgun or ammunition without complying with the requirements relating to the firearm identification card.
Source: Attleborough (Mass.) District Court criminal complaint
Lindsay H. Jones, USA TODAY Sports