The shocking suicide of Aaron Hernandez, who hung himself to death in his prison cell on Wednesday, could mean not only that he will have technically died an innocent man, but also that his surviving family could be entitled to millions of dollars from the New England Patriots.
Under an archaic and rarely applied Massachusetts legal doctrine, called “abatement ab initio,” Hernandez’s murder conviction for the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd can and likely will be vacated because the conviction was still pending appeal, meaning the case was incomplete. According to the legal principle, if a case is incomplete at the time of a suspect’s death, any previous decisions in the case are to be treated as though they never happened.
And because the New England Patriots canceled the former tight end’s bonus and withheld money owed on his contract as a direct result of the murder case, his surviving family may be entitled to those funds.
According to the New York Post, the NFL team may now owe Hernandez’s estate the $2.5 million in guaranteed base salary and a $3.5 million bonus that were stopped after his 2013 arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd. In 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of that murder and sentenced to life in prison. His defense team appealed the conviction, and the appeal was still pending throughout Hernandez’s subsequent double murder trial for the shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu. He was found not guilty of both murders last Friday.
Questions surround Hernandez’s death, especially as the suicide came just days after a significant legal victory. The conclusion of the murder trial meant that the pending appeal could go forward, and his defense lawyer Jose Baez said that he was hoping to overturn that earlier murder conviction.
Hernandez left behind a four-year-old daughter, Avielle. The little girl and her mother, Hernandez’s fiance Shayanna Jenkins, were in the courtroom when Hernandez was found not guilty of the double murder.
Photo: Associated Press