Hernandez murder conviction vacated following suicide

By DENISE LAVOIE

The Associated Press

FALL RIVER, Mass. — A judge on Tuesday erased a 2013 murder conviction against former NFL star Aaron Hernandez, ruling that case law in Massachusetts has long established that defendants who die before their appeals are heard should have their convictions vacated.

Bristol County Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said she was compelled to follow precedent in ordering that Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction be dismissed in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. Hernandez killed himself in prison last month while serving a life sentence.

Lloyd’s mother fought back tears after the ruling Tuesday, saying the former New England Patriots tight end would always be guilty in the eyes of her family.

“In our book, he’s guilty, and he’s always going to be guilty,” Ursula Ward said during a news conference.

Prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Lawyers for Hernandez had argued that the SJC had applied the legal doctrine “without exception,” even in cases of suicide. They said his conviction wasn’t considered final because the automatic appeal he was entitled to had not been heard.

Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg said Hernandez’s suicide was a “calculated act.” He cited a report issued last week from the Department of Correction that said Hernandez told another inmate he had heard a “rumor” that if an inmate has an open appeal on his case and dies in prison, he will be acquitted.

Garsh said there may be “complex and myriad” reasons that Hernandez killed himself five days after he was acquitted in a 2012 double murder. She cited a report from prison officials that some inmates knew about a radio broadcast that speculated Hernandez may have been gay. She also said a “possible mental disturbance” was reflected in a suicide note to his fiancee in which he said his death was “the Supremes, the almightys plan, not mine.”

Lloyd’s mother has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hernandez. Her attorney, Douglas Sheff, said he doesn’t believe the civil case will be undermined by the dismissal of Hernandez’s conviction.