Aaron Hernandez‘s murder conviction thrown out after suicide.
Massachusetts – The fallen NFL star died as a convicted murderer, but in the eyes of the law, his conviction has been erased.
On Tuesday, Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh ruled to vacate Hernandez’s murder conviction after the former NFL star’s suicide.
“Abatement remains the law in this Commonwealth and this court is compelled to follow binding precedent,” Garsh said.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell on April 19, just days after he was acquitted of double-murder charges in a separate case.
His conviction for the Lloyd murder was under appeal at the time of his death.
Now his conviction has been erased.
On Tuesday, after a Massachusetts judge ruled to vacate Hernandez’s murder conviction, minutes later, Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said prosecutors will appeal the judge’s decision.
Massachusetts courts have generally recognized a legal rule called “abatement ab initio,” or abatement, in which convictions are thrown out if a defendant dies before an appeal is heard.
Hernandez’s defense attorneys asked the court to follow that procedure and toss out his April 2015 murder conviction for killing Lloyd.
Hernandez’ attorney, John Thompson, said the manner of death should not matter — when a person dies while his conviction is under direct appeal, the conviction should be vacated.
But prosecutors from the Bristol County District Attorney’s office opposed that motion. They argued that abating Hernandez’s conviction would “reward the defendant’s conscious, deliberate and voluntary act” of killing himself, and that the abatement rule has no solid historical or legal basis.
“A defendant, who can cut off his own criminal appeal by suicide and stall civil litigation by a stay of proceedings … has the reins of the entire justice system in his own hands,” prosecutors wrote.
In court filings last week, prosecutors produced two pieces of evidence they said bolster their argument.
First, one fellow inmate told authorities that Hernandez had mentioned he heard a “rumor” about the abatement rule, according to the court documents.
Second, Hernandez’s suicide note for his fiancé, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez said “YOU’RE RICH,” underlined twice.
The issue is relevant because Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, had sued Hernandez’s estate in civil court in a wrongful death lawsuit. And civil lawsuits often rely on a criminal conviction as their basis of facts.
Ultimately, Judge Susan Garsh said the court cannot say for certain why Hernandez committed suicide. She described it as a “tragic act that had complex and myriad motives.”
With his murder conviction dismissed, the NFL has to pay out $3.5 Million, the rest of Hernandez’s signing bonus, which was partially withheld after he was arrested for murder.
Aaron Hernandez took his life so his daughter could have it all that's real love ❤️
— 㮓 Taz3Muxh「!] (@Loverboy_Taz) May 9, 2017