Sports

Supreme Judicial Court reinstates Aaron Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction

Supreme Judicial Court reinstates Aaron Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction

Massachusetts' highest court on Wednesday reinstated the late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction, which was erased after the former National Football League star died by suicide in prison.

The Supreme Judicial Court unanimously found that the legal rule that erased Hernandez's conviction is "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life".

Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of murdering acquaintance Odin Lloyd in an industrial park near his home by the Patriots' stadium and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

The judges said Tuesday that the Commonwealth's law automatically vacating the conviction because of Hernandez's suicide is "outdated".

"When a defendant dies irrespective of cause, while a direct appeal as of right challenging his conviction is pending, the proper course is to dismiss the appeal as moot", the court said.

"The practice of wiping out a jury verdict like it never occurred is not fair or equitable", Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said previously while arguing the conviction should remain intact.

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MA courts had generally recognized a legal rule called "abatement ab initio", or abatement, in which convictions are thrown out if a defendant dies prior his or her appeal being resolved.

Hernandez's death came shortly after his acquittal of the double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safir Furtado. It ordered that Hernandez's conviction be restored and that the practice be abolished for future cases. However, it will be a hollow and short-lived moment for the Commonwealth, since this decision is not only cruel for Aaron's family, but also disappointing and discouraging to all of those families who seek to clear their loved ones' names, in a flawed system where wrongful convictions are reversed every day.

How other states handle cases such as Hernandez's varies widely.

"We're here because he was convicted", Quinn told the justices.

There was no immediate comment from Hernandez's attorney. "He was an inspiration to all who knew him and a devoted member of his family and the community".


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