FALL RIVER, Mass. (AP) A relative of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez was granted immunity Wednesday to testify in his upcoming murder trial, according to a court clerk.
Bristol Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh granted prosecutors' petition for immunity for Jennifer Mercado, assistant clerk Mark Ferriera said. Mercado is Hernandez's cousin. Her sister, Tanya Singleton, is charged in connection with the case.
Hernandez's fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, also was in court Wednesday for a closed-door hearing on a similar immunity petition. The outcome of Jenkins' request has not been released.
One legal expert said the petitions indicate the two are not cooperating and need to be compelled to testify.
The petitions and the judge's immunity order are under seal. Mercado's lawyer, E. Peter Parker, would not discuss what happened during his client's hearing, which was also closed to the public. Neither would prosecutors or Janice Bassil, Jenkins' lawyer.
It was not immediately clear what the immunity order will mean for Hernandez's defense.
Jury selection is set to start Friday. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty in the 2013 slaying of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd. He also has pleaded not guilty in a separate murder case: the 2012 killings of two men in Boston after one of them allegedly accidentally spilled a drink on Hernandez at a nightclub.
Gerard T. Leone Jr., a former Middlesex district attorney and federal prosecutor who is now a partner at the law firm of Nixon Peabody, said if the government filed a petition, it was essentially a ''foregone conclusion'' that it would be granted. He said such petitions are frequently used in homicide cases when witnesses are ''imperfect,'' or have a reason not to cooperate with the government.
He said it indicates the government wants the option to call a particular witness, and the witness would have to testify if called to the stand.
Jenkins has pleaded not guilty after being charged with perjury for allegedly lying to the grand jury investigating the killing of Lloyd, who was shot to death in an industrial park near Hernandez's and Jenkins' home in North Attleborough.
Mercado has not been charged with any crime.
Parker also represents Mercado's sister, Singleton, who has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit accessory after the fact. She pleaded guilty earlier this year to criminal contempt for failing to testify before the grand jury and was sentenced to two years' probation. The sisters live together in Bristol, Connecticut.
Lloyd was dating Jenkins' sister at the time he was killed. Prosecutors say he was picked up at his home in Boston by Hernandez and two other men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, before he was shot to death at the industrial park. The two have also pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Their cases have not yet gone to trial.