FALL RIVER, Mass. -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez pleaded not guilty to a first-degree murder charge Friday following his indictment in the killing of a friend authorities say was shot five times in an industrial park.
Hernandez firmly answered "not guilty" to six charges, including murder and weapons and ammunition possession charges.
His attorneys agreed ahead of the hearing that Hernandez, 23, will continue to be held without bail, but reserved the right to request bail later. The next court hearing was set for Oct. 9.
Defence attorney Charles Rankin said outside the courthouse that Hernandez's legal team is confident the ex-Patriot will be exonerated during a trial. "Not one shred of evidence has been presented yet," he said.
The arraignment "is like the opening kickoff," Rankin said. And, he encouraged people to keep an open mind and let the lawyers and the justice system do their work.
Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter said, in fact, a "tremendous amount" of evidence has already been presented. He cited 500 pages of documents released to the press and public, including search and arrest warrants, affidavits and photographs taken from a surveillance system at Hernandez's home.
"I think that evidence speaks for itself," he said.
Sutter said he hopes the case will go to trial within a year but that it can sometimes take two years or more.
A Massachusetts grand jury last month returned the indictment against Hernandez in the death of Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-professional football player from Boston who was dating the sister of Hernandez's girlfriend.
Hernandez was arrested in June and pleaded not guilty to murder and weapons charges in district court. The indictment moved the case to superior court, where jury trials in murder cases are held.
Hernandez, who was cut from the Patriots within hours of his arrest, has been held at a county jail without bail.
Prosecutors say the former NFL star orchestrated Lloyd's killing because he was upset at Lloyd for talking to some people with whom Hernandez had problems at a nightclub a few days earlier.
-- The Associated Press