Court to Hold Hearing on Hernandez Evidence

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (CN) – A day after state authorities ruled Aaron Hernandez’s death a suicide, attorneys will fight in court Friday afternoon over evidence that may shed light on the jailed football star’s final moments.

The hearing in Bristol County Superior Court falls exactly a week after the former New England Patriot was acquitted in Boston of a 2012 drive-by shooting.

Already serving a life sentence for an unrelated murder, the 2013 shooting of his onetime friend Odin Lloyd, Hernandez is believed to have hanged himself with a bed sheet in his cell before dawn Wednesday.

That afternoon, Hernandez’s fiancee demanded an injunction in Bristol County Superior Court on behalf of the couple’s 4-year-old daughter.

“The plaintiff intends to investigate all of the circumstances regarding Aaron Hernandez’s death,” the 5-page complaint states, calling on the court “to preserve all evidence of the circumstances of Hernandez’s death.”

A hearing on the case is scheduled in New Bedford for 2 p.m. Friday.

Aaron Hernandez, right, listens beside defense attorney Ronald Sullivan, on April 14, 2017, as a Boston jury pronounces him not guilty of murder in the 2012 deaths of two men in a drive-by shooting. (WHDH-TV via AP, Pool)

As authorities ruled Hernandez’s death a suicide on Thursday, the 27-year-old’s body was turned over to a funeral home so it could be laid to rest.

In contrast to earlier reports that Hernandez had not left a suicide note, investigators revealed Thursday that they found three notes Hernandez wrote before his death. He laid them next to a Bible in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.

Worcester prosecutors said “there were no signs of a struggle,” and that Hernandez had apparently jammed cardboard into the door track to impede entry.

He had been locked alone in his cell at 8 p.m. Tuesday, and a guard found him hanging at 3 a.m.

Jose Baez, the defense attorney who won Hernandez’s acquittal last week, accused the medical examiner Thursday of not releasing his client’s brain.

Baez, the same attorney who won the acquittal of Casey Anthony on child-murder charges in Florida, said Hernandez’s family plans to have the former tight end’s brain tested at Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center.

The center studies a progressive degenerative brain disease found in some athletes who have experienced repetitive brain trauma.

Hernandez’s fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, began using the Hernandez name in 2015. She was in the courtroom nearly every day for Hernandez’s recent trial, bringing the couple’s daughter, Avielle, along for the fourth day of jury deliberations. 

The family’s complaint lays out 17 items of evidence for the state to preserve, including any writings or recordings Hernandez made in prison, his sheets and clothing, and all of his medical records.

Hernandez’s brain is not mentioned in the complaint, which was filed by New Bedford attorney George Leontire.

Under an obscure Massachusetts abatement law, the family could use Hernandez’s death to have his conviction in the Odin Lloyd case vacated.

Because the football player died before exhausting his appeals, the law provides that he could receive a posthumous benefit of the doubt.

Hernandez’s estate still faces a civil suit from relatives of the men whom the athlete was acquitted last week of murdering.

If Hernandez’s record is cleared under abatement, the Patriots may be contractually obligated to pay Hernandez’s estate a $3.5 million bonus that was put on hold after his 2013 arrest.

The Patriots may also owe Hernandez an additional $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary that was also halted after his 2013 arrest, lawyer Michael Coyne told CSNNE.com.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)