The Bristol County District Attorney’s office has said it is filing an immediate appeal of a judge’s decision to vacate Aaron Hernandez’s 2015 murder conviction, a ruling that means he is an innocent man in death.
On Tuesday, Judge Susan Garsh ruled to vacate the conviction on the basis of a Massachusetts legal principle “abatement ab initio,” which states that a murder conviction be thrown out in the event a suspect dies before an appeal is complete, as Hernandez did.
But, as CNN reports, prosecutors argued that the abatement should not apply in this instance because of what they said was evidence that Hernandez had taken his own life with the intention of getting this very result.
“A defendant, who can cut off his own criminal appeal by suicide and stall civil litigation by a stay of proceedings … has the reins of the entire justice system in his own hands,” prosecutors wrote in their opposition to the motion, according to CNN.
The prosecutors pointed to two items from Hernandez’s prison file, which was released last week in response to a public records request from the Associated Press, that they claimed showed Hernandez had intent to force the abatement when he hung himself in his prison cell on April 19.
As Crime Online previously reported, the prison file included notes from interviews with Hernandez’s fellow inmates following his suicide. One inmate reportedly said that Hernandez had mentioned the legal loophole in a conversation not long before his death: The inmate said Hernandez had heard a “rumor” that his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd could be vacated if he died before the appeal was complete. Hernandez’s second murder trial ended just days before his death, in which he was acquitted for a 2012 double murder outside a Boston nightclub.
The prosecutors also pointed to a suicide note Hernandez reportedly left for his fiancee: In it, he wrote “YOU’RE RICH” in underlined capital letters.
According to CNN, the prosecutors argued that vacating Hernandez’s murder conviction would serve to reward “the defendant’s conscious, deliberate and voluntary act.”
In the end, the judge concluded that it was impossible to conclude that his motive for suicide was to force the abatement. According to CNN, Judge Garsh characterized the suicide as “tragic act that had complex and myriad motives.”
Photo: Associated Press