Aaron Hernandez, who was found hanging dead in his cell after presumably committing suicide, will likely now have his murder conviction vacated and be viewed in the eyes of the law as an innocent man.
Prior to the events of this month Hernandez was a murderer convicted for the 2013 death of Odin Lloyd who was on trial for the 2012 deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. With his acquittal last week on those charges and his suicide resulting in the likely voiding of his murder conviction, Hernandez’ record, when it comes to taking the lives of other people, will likely be wiped completely clean.
Hernandez may posthumously benefit from the Massachusetts legal principle of “abatement ab initio,” or “from the beginning.” The principle holds that it is unfair is unfair to the defendant or their survivors for a conviction to be allowed to stand if they were unable to have an opportunity to clear their names on appeal.
All first-degree murder convictions in Massachusetts trigger an automatic appeal. Hernandez’s appeal had not yet been heard by the state’s high court. “Hernandez’s attorneys can move to have the conviction in the Lloyd case erased,” said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association.
Leslie Walker, The executive director of the statewide inmate-advocate organization Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts, said she believes Aaron Hernandez’s death is the first reported successful suicide by an inmate hanging a sheet from a window at the maximum-security Souza-Baranowski prison.
Brian Murphy, Hernandez’s agent, also found it odd, tweeting on Wednesday morning that there was “absolutely no chance he took his own life.”
Walker described the layout of the standard maximum-security cells at the Souza-Baranowski prison as small rectangles about three feet off the ground with a metal frame that is flush with the glass. There would be no easy way to attach a sheet, the means by which he is claimed to have hung himself and three feet would not normally be a sufficient distance to allow for a hanging death of a large man.
His attorney, Jose Baez, has requested a full and transparent investigation by the proper authorities and announced that they will be conducting their own separate inquiry as well. He stated that there was no indication that Hernandez was planning to kill himself and that he had been optimistic about a chance to prove his innocence on appeal.
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