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Days before the murder trial of former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez is set to get underway, a new top prosecutor was appointed Friday to oversee the case after the Bristol County district attorney was elected mayor of Fall River.
Thomas M. Quinn III, a top assistant for outgoing DA Sam Sutter, was appointed acting district attorney by Gov. Deval Patrick. All three men emphasized continuity as the office prepares to prosecute the closely watched murder trial.
"On the eve of the Hernandez case, the stability of the office is critical," Quinn told The Associated Press on Friday. He said the media attention on the case has been "incredible."
"I'm up to that challenge," he said.
Patrick, who leaves office next week, praised Quinn's 16 years of experience in the office.
"I am making this appointment now to assure the stability of the critical work of the office and fully respect the authority of the incoming governor to make his own appointment in due course," Patrick said in a written statement.
Quinn steps into the role a week before jury selection is scheduled to start in Hernandez's first murder trial on Jan. 9. He's charged with killing semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in 2013. Hernandez is also charged with killing two men in Boston in 2012 after a chance encounter at a nightclub, but that case has not yet gone to trial.
Quinn told the AP that within hours of being appointed he was meeting with prosecutors about the Hernandez case.
"We've discussed strategy in meetings, and I'm very involved with the case," he said.
Sutter has attended many of the court hearings in the case, and Quinn said he planned to do the same.
Sutter recommended Quinn be appointed to replace him and said on Friday the choice would be met with jubilation by the 130 people working at the district attorney's office. Nearly 100 employees in the office signed a letter last week to Patrick urging Quinn's appointment.
Sutter was re-elected in November, but ran for mayor in a recall election last month and won. He was sworn in as mayor on Tuesday and officially resigned and declined his nomination for a third term as district attorney on Friday. Quinn's term will last until an election in 2016, unless incoming Republican Gov. Charlie Baker chooses to rescind the appointment by Patrick, a Democrat.
Baker is allowed to rescind any appointment made by Patrick in his final days in office. Tim Buckley, a spokesman for Baker, did not say whether he would consider appointing someone new.
"The governor-elect is pleased to see that the important work of the district attorney's office will continue uninterrupted, and will make his decision regarding the next district attorney after assuming office," he said.
Quinn told the AP he hoped Baker would choose to keep him.
"I would like to gain the confidence of Gov.-elect Baker, and I would like to speak with him in the near future about continuing on as a district attorney after he is sworn in," he said.
Quinn has been a lawyer since 1987 and has been both a defense lawyer and prosecutor in several murder cases.
He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and Suffolk University Law School and began his career as an assistant district attorney in the same office he will now lead. From 1997 to 2007, he was in private practice. He then returned to the office and became Sutter's first assistant.
Quinn is a native of Dartmouth and lives in Fall River.
Also Friday, the court released filings in which Hernandez's asked the judge to let his mother and fiancee attend the trial, even though they are listed as possible witnesses and normally would be barred from attending.
"It is reasonable, appropriate and humane that a defendant's closest family members be permitted to attend his trial," they wrote.
They said both women testified before a grand jury in the case and there's no reason to think their trial testimony would be influenced by what other witnesses say. Jenkins has been charged with perjury in the case and has pleaded not guilty.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Tuesday.
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