After former NFL superstar Aaron Hernandez hung himself in his jail cell last month, shockwaves vibrated throughout the sports world. For a man who had just days prior been acquitted of a separate second murder charge, many found the timing odd, arguing he was closer than ever to the possibility of one day walking out of his jail cell.
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Why would he hang himself when he was hoping his conviction for the first degree murder of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd might be overturned in a new trial? He had everything to live for said many, but Hernandez knew exactly what he was doing. He was banking on the justice system doing its job and, for once, ruling in his favor. And he was right.
Well, as of Tuesday, the conviction of the murder of Lloyd was vacated by Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh.
The reason? Massachusetts case law, which was established years prior, states that a defendant who dies before their appeals are heard should have their convictions vacated.
With the ruling now overturned, the New England Patriots owe Hernandez’s family $6 million since he was never found guilty of the crime.
This reason for the suicide was further cemented after TMZ obtained one of the three suicide notes Hernandez left, addressed to his wife, that read, “You’re Rich.”
Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, was visibly holding back tears in the courtroom when the decision to overturn her son’s killer’s conviction was announced. “In our book, he’s guilty and he’s going to always be guilty,” she said. “But I know, I know one day I’m going to see my son, and that’s the victory that I have and I am going to take with me.”
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III informed the press that he will appeal the court’s decision. “Despite the tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez’s life, he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule,” Quinn said to reporters outside the courtroom.
Legal experts in Massachusetts have long argued over this exact situation. If the defendant is found guilty, should he be entitled to the same privilege if he killed himself? Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg doesn’t seem to think so as he called Hernandez’s suicide a “calculated act.”
As of now, a handful of states in the U.S. have laws similar to Massachusetts’ in which convictions are vacated posthumously if all appeals have not been exhausted at the time of the defendant’s death. There’s no doubt this will continue to be a hotly debated topic.