Under an old and unusual Massachusetts law, once-convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez, who took his own life in prison Wednesday morning, will essentially be an innocent man in death.
As the Boston Globe reported, the former NFL star’s death on Wednesday, which came while his original murder conviction for the death of Odin L. Lloyd was still pending appeal, means that his murder conviction will be thrown out.
In Massachusetts, a common law principle called “abatement ab initio,” or “from the beginning,” means that if a person dies before a criminal conviction is complete, that conviction will be voided. Hernandez’s legal team was appealing his 2015 murder conviction in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd two years prior. The appeal was still pending throughout Hernandez’s second murder trial this year, for the 2012 deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, which ended last week in a not guilty verdict.
Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association, told the Boston Globe that the archaic principle is so rarely used that people often forget it exists. And it reportedly applies to civil cases as well, meaning that no evidence presented in Hernandez’s criminal trial can be used in any future civil proceedings.
“Unfortunately, in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure,” Healy told the newspaper.
On Friday, Hernandez was found not guilty of the double murder, and his lawyer, Jose Baez, was looking ahead with the hopes of overturning the previous murder conviction, which came with a life sentence.
“There’s no finality in the other case yet,” Baez told TMZ on Friday. “He still has many appeals, which we’re going to start taking a look at. In that case, I always felt that that was a winnable case. Unfortunately, Aaron didn’t call me then. He went with his agent’s recommendation, and here we are today. But I always thought the first was case was a winnable case.”
“Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man,” Healy said.
Photo: Associated Press