Thanks to a Massachusetts law, former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez will have officially died an innocent man in the eyes of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Whether that will affect anything moving forward remains to be seen.
NBC News reported that Judge E. Susan Garsh overturned the conviction of Hernandez in the murder of former semipro football player Odin Lloyd on the basis of a Massachusetts law that states that a conviction must be vacated if the defendant dies before a pending appeal can be heard. Aaron Hernandez took his own life by hanging on April 19, leading to the question of whether there would be an exception to the law because of his suicide.
However, Garsh ruled that there was no way to prove one way or another whether Hernandez’s suicide was because of his 2013 conviction or whether the two events were unrelated. Without that proof, she said she felt that she had to follow the existing Massachusetts law and officially overturn his conviction. CNN reported that Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn said that the prosecution will appeal Garsh’s decision.
With Hernandez now officially an innocent man despite being ruled guilty of killing Lloyd, the question shifts as to what becomes of lawsuits against Hernandez’s estate by the family of Lloyd and whether his family would receive a pension for his time in the NFL. Hernandez was never paid $5.91 million of guaranteed money from his contract with the Patriots, but the Boston Globe has reported that the contract is almost surely permanently buried because Hernandez and the Patriots reached a settlement in 2014 concerning the voiding of his contract.
Terms of the settlement were undisclosed, but the Globe said that legal experts confirmed that such settlements almost always include ironclad protection against any new information coming to light, meaning the Patriots would not owe Aaron Hernandez another dime of the money from his contract under any circumstances.
The status of his pension is far less black-and-white. Although Hernandez will be entitled to receive the league minimum pension for playing three years, the family of Lloyd could still file a lawsuit to try to get some of the money that would otherwise be paid out to Hernandez’s fiancée and daughter. The families of Lloyd and the families of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, who were killed in a double murder in which Hernandez was acquitted of charges, all have wrongful death lawsuits pending against the former tight end’s estate.
However, without a guilty conviction, the cases cannot be used to prove wrongful death on the part of Aaron Hernandez, making it more difficult for the families to win such a case.
What do you think of the conviction being overturned? Should the Massachusetts law be changed? Was the judge right to rule as she did? Sound off in the comments and like and share this story!
By Dan Angell