Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III made good on previous promises to appeal the ruling that overturned the murder conviction of former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez for the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd. The conviction was vacated because he had not exhausted the appeals process for the conviction at the time of his suicide in prison in April.
Judge E. Susan Garsh, who presided over the Lloyd murder trial, was forced to vacate the conviction in May as the result of a centuries-old Massachusetts legal rule known as “abatement ab initio.” According to a Friday report from local ABC affiliate WCVB, prosecutors pointed to the practices of other states that no longer erased the convictions of defendants who die before their appeals can be heard.
“More than a dozen states allow appeals to continue even after death and only dismiss convictions when the appellate court finds that a new trial would have been warranted,” WCVB reported. “Prosecutors said courts should strike a balance between the rights of defendants and the rights of victims. Lloyd's mother fought back tears after a judge voided Hernandez's conviction in her son's killing.”
Quinn, who filed the appeal with a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on Friday, reportedly called the legal rule “archaic.” According to WCVB, he said the rule “does not serve the public interest.”
Quinn also rebuked the legal rule in May following news of Hernandez’s vacated conviction, according to the Associated Press at the time. In spite of the “tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez's life,” Quinn said, “he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule.”
The legal rule was invoked by Hernandez's lawyers after the 27-year-old athlete died by suicide April 19 in his prison cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. At the time, Garsh said she was “compelled to follow binding precedent” in overturning the conviction.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts State Sen. Richard Ross co-sponsored legislation that would nullify the right to the rule in cases where a defendant died by suicide. The testimony for the bill, which is called “An Act Relative to Odin Lloyd,” was heard earlier this month.
A statement released by Ross’ office in May said that the legislation would “bring justice to victims” like Lloyd.
“Though tragedy struck both families involved in the events of Hernandez’s suicide and conviction, the lack of justice served to Odin Lloyd and his family can never be reversed,” Ross said. “This legislation will protect families in similar circumstances so that justice is maintained regardless of the defendant’s appeal status at the time of his/her suicide.”
According to reports, Hernandez used a bed sheet to hang himself from his cell window at the Massachusetts maximum-security prison. Just days before his death, Hernandez was acquitted of the 2012 double homicide of Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado.