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Phone Casts Shadow on Hernandez Murder Trial

BOSTON (CN) — A cellphone Aaron Hernandez entrusted with lawyers one day before murdering Odin Lloyd will likely bury the football star at his next trial, thanks to a new ruling from the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

Though already serving a life sentence for Lloyd's June 17, 2013, murder, Hernandez is set to go on trial this February in connection to a 2012 double homicide.

A former tight end for the New England Patriots, Hernandez's next trial concerns a July 16, 2012, drive-by shooting in Boston's South End involving the deaths of Daniel DeAbreu and Safiro Furtado,

Prosecutors in the upcoming case suspect there is evidence against Hernandez in a cellphone he last used before killing Lloyd.

The phone has been in the possession of Hernandez's attorneys for the past three years, but the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last week resurrected a search warrant for the device.

As summarized in the court's Aug. 19 ruling, the phone is believed to contain text messages Hernandez exchanged with Alexander Bradley about the 2012 shooting.

Bradley claims to have witnessed Hernandez open fire that night on the 2003 BMW, killing two of the vehicle's five occupants.

Texting about the shooting purportedly began after yet another shooting purportedly committed by Hernadez.

Bradley says Hernandez shot him in the face on Feb. 13, 2013, when they were in a car leaving a Miami Gardens strip club called Tootsie's Cabaret.

From February to June that year, when Bradley sued Hernandez in Florida over his injuries, Bradley claims to have called and texted Hernandez repeatedly about the shootings.

Hernandez handed his cell to his attorney at Roper & Gray on June 16 — the eve of Lloyd's murder.

The commonwealth has been trying to obtain the phone since 2014. The latest ruling notes that the phone has been in the possession of Hernandez's attorneys at Rankin & Sullivan since March 30, 2016.

Though a superior court judge denied the application for a search warrant, the SJC agreed with the commonwealth Friday that Hernandez's attorneys no longer need to hold onto the phone once they've mirrored the device.

"Once Rankin & Sultan has downloaded the contents of the telephone, it has no legitimate purpose for the telephone's retention," Associate Justice Francis Spina wrote for the seven-person court. "Rankin & Sultan no longer requires possession of the telephone for the provision of legal advice to the defendant. In such circumstances, the continued retention of this device can only be understood as having the effect of concealing or removing it from the observation of others, namely the commonwealth."

Hernandez is slated to face a pretrial status hearing in the first week of October.

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