Murder Conviction Revived After Suicide of Aaron Hernandez

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)

BOSTON (CN) – Abandoning a policy that allows for the dismissal of convictions if the defendant dies mid-appeal, the highest court in Massachusetts reinstated the murder conviction Wednesday of deceased Patriots player Aaron Hernandez.

The Supreme Judicial Court determined that that the practice of abatement ab initio is outdated and inadequate in light of the belief Hernandez killed himself to take advantage of the doctrine.

Without the murder conviction on Hernandez’s record, the Patriots faced the potential of having to pay the balance of Hernandez’s multimillion-dollar contract to the former tight end’s fiancee and daughter.

The Patriots booted Hernandez after he was arrested in 2013 for the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd. 

Associate Justice Elspeth Cypher wrote for the court Wednesday that the practice of abatement ab inito is outdated and is quickly falling to the wayside in numerous state courts.

“The justification for the adoption of the doctrine has never been explicated, and several compelling arguments weigh against it,” the 36-page opinion states. “Indeed, many other jurisdictions have, with increasing frequency in recent years, rejected the doctrine and followed alternative approaches.”

Cypher also noted that the doctrine had a sketchy background with limited documentation for the first record instance of its use in Massachusetts in 1975.

“As we have been unable to discern a reasoned analysis for the adoption of the abatement ab initio doctrine, and in any event, we are presented with substantial reasons it should be changed, we conclude that we will no longer follow the doctrine when a defendant dies during the pendency of a direct appeal as of right challenging a conviction,” wrote Cypher.

After Hernandez was convicted for Lloyd’s murder in 2015, the former football star still faced additional murder charges connected to a 2012 drive-by shooting that resulted in the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado outside of a Boston night club. 

A few days after he was acquitted on those murder charges due to a lack of evidence, Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell from an apparent suicide on April 19, 2017.

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