Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction

Heather Diaz
March 14, 2019

He was serving a life sentence in prison for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez hanged himself in his cell days after being acquitted in a double-murder case from 2012.

Hernandez's first-degree murder conviction must be reinstated, the state's high court stated in a ruling released Wednesday.

The Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday scrapped the legal principle that erased Hernandez's conviction after he killed himself in prison, and ordered the onetime football star's conviction be restored. The ruling does not affect past cases. Just two years after being convicted, Hernandez died of suicide in his cell. A legal principle put the conviction in doubt, because Hernandez's appeal was unresolved at his time of death and he would be able to be present for the appeal.

Massachusetts' highest court began to consider Thursday whether to end the long-standing legal practice that "wipes out" a person's conviction if the defendant dies before all appeals are exhausted.

How states handle cases such as Hernandez's varies widely. Some states, like MA, toss the convictions, while others dismiss the defendant's appeal and the conviction stands.

Aaron Hernandez found hanged
Aaron Hernandez Murder Charge Re-Instated

John H. Thompson, the court-appointed appellate lawyer for Hernandez, had argued that the criminal justice system is concerned exclusively with the defendant, not victims, their relatives, or jurors.

Lawyer John Thompson, who said he was representing "the spirit of Aaron Hernandez", said this would be unfair as the defendant - a critical part of any case - is dead, and can not provide context or help to attorneys to properly appeal his case.

"We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim's family can get the closure they deserve", the statement continues.

"The SJC did not state a cogent reason for applying this new rule to Mr. Hernandez's case, and there is no reason in the record that justifies that aspect of this decision", John Thompson and Linda Thompson said in a statement.

The judges said Tuesday that the Commonwealth's law automatically vacating the conviction because of Hernandez's suicide is "outdated". Otherwise, the conviction should stand, he said. "They would have an action against the estate because of the wrongful death of their family member".

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