State Fights to Keep Hernandez Murder Conviction in Place

(CN) – Prosecutors urged a court Monday not to disturb Aaron Hernandez’s murder conviction after the fallen football star killed himself in prison.

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)

Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for the death of Odin Lloyd when he used a bedsheet to hang himself in his prison cell before dawn on April 19, 2017. The former New England Patriot’s fiancee brought a motion days later to vacate Hernandez’s conviction under an arcane process known as abatement.

“When a defendant dies while his conviction is on direct review, it is our practice to vacate the judgment and remand the case with a direction to dismiss the complaint or indictment, thus abating the entire prosecution,” the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said in the 1986 case Commonwealth v. Latour.

But Bristol County prosecutors complained Monday in a 29-page opposition brief that the legal doctrine on abatement “lacks any identifiable historical or legal basis.”

Noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has already rejected the abatement policy, District Attorney Tom Quinn’s office warned that relief for Hernandez would “be inconsistent with the emerging law of many other jurisdictions.”

The prosecutors concluded that Hernandez’s chances of success at appeal were “negligible,” and that granting the abatement motion would “reward the defendant’s conscious, deliberate and voluntary act.”

It would give a defendant “the reins of the entire justice system in his own hands,” the prosecutors added.

“Here, the defendant, by deliberately, purposely and voluntarily ending his life prior to the exhaustion of his appellate rights, manifested his intention to abandon his appeal or otherwise waived his right to review, or at the very least, forfeited any claim for abatement of his convictions,” the brief states.

Hernandez’s attorneys — John and Linda Thompson with the Springfield, Massachusetts, firm Thompson & Thompson — can reply to the state’s opposition brief by 4 p.m. May 4. The court will hold a hearing on the matter at 10 a.m. May 9.

Also in Bristol County Superior Court, the mother of the man Hernandez murdered moved last week to substitute Hernandez’s fiancee as defendant.

“There are time-sensitive issues relating to assets that need to be addressed on an emergency basis,” the April 27 motion says.

Mother to Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez was appointed special representative of Hernandez’s estate on April 21, according to the motion by Lloyd’s mother. Hernandez and his fiancee never married, but she began using his last name in 2015.

“The parties were working towards a resolution to this case at the time of Mr. Hernandez’s death,” Ward’s filing states. “As this court is aware, the parties entered into an agreement to sell the property owned by Aaron Hernandez located at 22 Ronald C. Myer Drive, North Attleboro, Massachusetts.”

The former home of Aaron Hernandez at 22 Ronald C. Myer Drive, North Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Ward noted that an offer realtors received to sell the property expires on April 28. The amount of the offer is redacted.

“Past offers have not been responded to and the property continues to lose value and become further encumbered by federal and municipal liens,” the Ward motion states. “The house is currently uninsured and this asset is in danger of being lost if it is not sold.”

Ward is represented by Kelsey Raycroft with Sheff Law Offices in Boston.

Days before he killed himself, Hernandez was acquitted of murdering Daniel De Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a 2012 drive-by shooting.

Hernandez still faced a civil suit from those men’s families.

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