Aaron Hernandez’s conviction for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd officially was vacated Tuesday by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Judge E. Susan Garsh.
Hernandez’s appeal of his conviction had yet to be heard by the court when the former New England Patriots tight end committed suicide in his jail cell last month. By Massachusetts law, a conviction must be abated if the defendant dies before his or her appeal is settled.
The state plans to appeal the ruling, arguing that since Hernandez “deliberately, consciously and voluntarily chose to end his life,” his death should not erase his guilt.
Hernandez was found not guilty in the double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado just days before his death.
Sports Illustrated legal expert Michael McCann explained last week why getting Hernandez’s conviction abated would be “good news for Hernandez’s estate”:
“If Hernandez’s convictions are vacated, those convictions can no longer be used in civil lawsuits filed by the families of Hernandez’s victims and his alleged victims. Family members of Lloyd, de Abreu and Furtado all have wrongful death claims pending against Hernandez’s estate. In a wrongful death lawsuit, the victim’s family must prove by a preponderance of evidence (more likely than not) that the defendant’s negligence caused the killing of the family member.
“The burden in a wrongful death lawsuit is far lower than in a criminal prosecution, where guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is required. If, as prosecutors demand, abatement is denied, Hernandez’s conviction in murdering Lloyd would make it nearly certain for Lloyd’s mother, Ursula Ward, to prevail. Also, even though Hernandez was not convicted of murdering de Abreu and Furtado, some of the evidence from that prosecution would be admissible in a civil trial if abatement does not occur.”
The abatement also could allow Hernandez’s family to recoup some or all of the $5.91 million in guaranteed money the Patriots withheld from Hernandez after his arrest.
Thumbnail photo via Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via USA TODAY Sports Images