Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction

Florence Fletcher
March 14, 2019

Calling it 'outdated, ' the Supreme Judicial Court in MA has eliminated a state legal principle that wiped out the murder conviction of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez after his suicide.

In its ruling, the Supreme Judicial Court said Hernandez's conviction will stand but the court record will note the conviction was neither affirmed nor reversed because the defendant died while the appeal was pending.

Aaron Hernandez was convicted on April 15, 2015 of the 2013 death of semipro football player Odin Lloyd in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.

After the 27-year-old former athlete hung himself, his family turned his brain over to scientists who determined that Hernandez had the one of the worst cases of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy that they had ever seen.

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"When a defendant dies irrespective of cause, while a direct appeal as of right challenging his conviction is pending, the proper course is to dismiss the appeal as moot", the court said. Legal analysts believed vacating Hernandez's murder conviction had made winning the case more hard for the plaintiffs. As part of an obscure doctrine called "abatement ab initio", Hernandez's guilty verdict was overturned because he died before he was able to conclude the appeals process.

Hernandez's death came shortly after his acquittal of the double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safir Furtado. The prosecution then appealed, seeking to have the conviction reinstated. Some states, like MA, toss the convictions, while others dismiss the defendant's appeal and the conviction stands. Quinn III was the prosecutor on the Hernandez case. Others allow appellate courts to consider a dead defendant's case, prosecutors said.

Lloyd's mother settled her wrongful death lawsuit with Hernandez's estate in September. "It has solidified their faith in the Massachusetts Justice System".

"Hernandez's initial conviction, however, was vacated in 2017 after the former New England Patriots" tight end committed suicide in his jail cell.

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