Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker moved Wednesday to clarify the status of the recently appointed prosecutor whose office is overseeing the murder case against former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez.
The governor's office said it did not believe questions about whether Thomas Quinn would continue as Bristol district attorney and for how long would have any impact on the Hernandez trial, which began with jury selection last week.
Quinn was appointed by former Gov. Deval Patrick and sworn-in on Jan. 7, one day before the Democrat's term ended and Baker, a Republican, was inaugurated. On Friday, Baker's legal counsel sent a letter to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin stating that the new governor was exercising his authority to rescind "any and all" appointments made in the final 15 days of an outgoing administration.
On Wednesday, Galvin's office received a clarification from Baker's legal counsel Lon Povich explaining that upon further review of state law, the previous letter applied to only four Patrick appointments. Quinn was not among them.
Still, a disagreement remained between the governor and Galvin, a Democrat, over whether Quinn's appointment was a temporary one or if he is firmly in place until the next state election in 2016.
Baker, citing language in Patrick's Jan. 2 appointment letter, believes Quinn was intended to serve as acting district attorney, allowing the new governor to replace him if he chooses. But Galvin's contention is that there can be no such thing as an "acting" DA and unless Baker rescinds the appointment within 15-days, Quinn must serve at least through the next election.
Galvin called on Baker to further clarify Quinn's status.
"Instead of discussing whether there is doubt, let's remove it and the governor can do it," Galvin said.
Patrick named Quinn after former District Attorney Sam Sutter was elected mayor of Fall River.
While assistant district attorneys are the ones to actually try the Hernandez case, Quinn's name has appeared as acting district attorney on some official legal documents associated with the trial. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to murder in the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd, a semiprofessional football player, near Hernandez's home.
"The administration is confident it is not going to affect the trial in any way," said Tim Buckley, a spokesman for Baker.
Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said he could not comment on whether the Hernandez case would be affected because there is a gag order. Hernandez's defense team did not respond to a request for comment.
The clerk in Bristol Superior Court said no filings had been made relative to Quinn's status as district attorney.
Associated Press writer Michelle R. Smith in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.