“The longstanding rule is…abating the entire prosecution as if it never happened. This court is compelled to follow binding precedent,” Judge Garsh said before delivering her verdict.
It has been nearly three weeks since the former New England Patriots star committed suicide in his jail cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. Following his shocking death, Hernandez’s attorneys headed back to court in an effort to erase his conviction in the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.
Although Hernandez had been serving a life sentence for the murder of Lloyd, the case was in the appeal process when he took his own life. Due to a Massachusetts state law, Hernandez was “innocent until proven guilty” following his death.
The Hartford Courant explains the legalities of the law that was upheld in court today.
“The legal principle that reversed Hernandez’s conviction posthumously is known as ‘abatement ab initio’ — a Latin phrase meaning ‘from the beginning’ — and dates to when Massachusetts was a British colony. The abatement doctrine states that it is discriminatory to a defendant or survivors to allow a conviction to stand before they have a chance to fully appeal it. Hernandez hanged himself in a Massachusetts prison last month.”
The prosecution argued that any person allowed to die “innocent” by taking [his] own life while a case is in the appeal process, “has the reins of the entire justice system in his own hands.”
“In this circumstance a balance must be struck between the policy interests advanced by abatement, the effect of the defendant’s actions in frustrating the interests of justice and the interests in maintaining the validity of the conviction,” Bristol prosecutor Patrick Bomberg wrote in a filing last week, according to the Boston Herald.
Upon hearing the verdict, Odin Lloyd’s family began crying. It is unknown how the civil lawsuits against Hernandez will be handled moving forward. Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, spoke to reporters outside of the courthouse following today’s hearing.
“In our book, he’s guilty. He’s going to always be guilty,” she said. “I know one day I will see my son and that’s the victory I’m going to take. I won because I have God on my side. With God, all things are possible,” she added.
In a suicide note left for Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez (she legally changed her last name despite never marrying the former NFLer), Hernandez wrote, “you’re rich!” It has been widely speculated that the New England Patriots will have to pay Hernandez the money he may rightfully be owed.
“In June 2013, the Patriots withheld $3.25 million of Hernandez’s signing bonus. They also refused to pay him his $2.5 million in his guaranteed base salary. New England cited the collective bargaining agreement as their reason for withholding that guaranteed money. That’s the money Hernandez’s lawyers will likely pursue.”
The Patriots have not commented on the case.
Aaron Hernandez is survived by one daughter. Avielle was born in 2012.
According to TMZ, the Bristol County D.A.’s Office plans to appeal today’s decision.