Aaron Hernandez was convicted of the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, but the conviction might be vacated based on an old legal rule because Hernandez has died in an apparent suicide.
According to the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, an old legal principle called “abatement ab initio” states that if a person hasn’t exhausted all legal appeals at the time of their death, a guilty verdict is officially vacated. Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end, was found dead from an apparent hanging in his single prison cell on Wednesday morning. He was appealing the verdict in the Lloyd case.
“I was doing research this morning,” John M. Thompson, a state-appointed attorney who was representing Hernandez, told the Boston Herald. “The first thing we have to do is get a death certificate. Once we have the official documentation, we will file the motion and see whether it’s contested.”
Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association, told the Boston Globe the principle is from common law, observed by several older states but it rarely comes up in practice.
“Unfortunately, in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure,” Healy told the Boston Globe. “Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man.”
Hernandez was convicted in April of 2015 of murdering Lloyd and was serving a life sentence. Hernandez was acquitted in a separate double murder case last week. He was convicted of gun possession in that case and immediately sentenced to 4-5 years, but Thompson told the Herald there would likely be a motion to throw out that conviction too.
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More Aaron Hernandez coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Hernandez commits suicide in prison cell
• Dan Wetzel: Slight change in Hernandez during his final days
• Hernandez’s agent skeptical of prison suicide
• Prison: Hernandez showed no suicidal signs, left no note
• Watch: The life and death of Aaron Hernandez