Slums MAG Staff: Renay Marie
Aaron Hernandez was found guilty in 2015 of first-degree murder in the death of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro football player and Hernandez’s potential brother in law. Lloyd was found shot to death in an undeveloped part of an industrial park near Hernandez’s North Attleboro, Massachusetts, home. Hernandez was a member of the New England Patriots at the time. Hernandez committed suicide in 2017 while incarcerated for that crime. By doing so before the full appeal of the case was heard, his attorneys were initially able to argue that under the doctrine, Hernandez maintained a presumption of innocence during the appeal. As such, the doctrine allowed the conviction to be thrown out, making Hernandez, technically, a man innocent of murder.
That ruling has potential ramifications for Hernandez’s daughter to seek compensation and a pension from his football career, as well as protect whatever remains of Hernandez’s estate from civil suits from the Lloyd family. In a unanimous opinion after an appeal from prosecutors, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the doctrine should no longer be followed and death during appeal should simply end the appeal, not the original conviction.
While the court didn’t make a determination of why Hernandez decided to kill himself, it wrote in a footnote about the possibility, which for Hernandez or prisoners going forward was concerning and counter to the intent of the law. “There are suggestions that the cause of death was suicide and that the defendant may have been aware of the doctrine and its potential financial implications for his family, but, given our ruling, we need not, and do not, reach any conclusions in that regard, including as to the sufficiency of any such evidence,” the court wrote.