BOSTON, MA - APRIL 12: Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez blows a kiss to his fiancées Shayanna Jenkins from the defense table during jury deliberations in his double murder trial at Suffolk Superior Court in Boston on Apr. 12, 2017. Hernandez is charged in the July 2012 killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado who he encountered in a Boston nightclub. The former NFL football player already is serving a life sentence in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd. (Photo by Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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Overturning decades of legal precedent, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled on Wednesday the late Aaron Hernandez’s first-degree murder conviction must be reinstated.
Previously, under a legal principle known by the Latin phrase “ab initio,” the Supreme Judicial Court had held a conviction should be removed from the record if the defendant died before his or her trial had been examined by an appeals court.
Thanks to that principle, Hernandez’s conviction in Bristol Superior Court for the murder of Odin Lloyd was erased after the former NFL star killed himself in prison.
Hernandez’s suicide came just days after he was acquitted of murdering two men in Boston’s South End in 2012.
“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. “Just to snap your finger and have that go away because the defendant died – it’s not fair.”
In the opinion for the SJC, Justice Elspeth Cypher wrote the court had concluded “the doctrine of abatement ab initio is outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life, if, in fact, it ever was.”
Moving forward under the new rule laid out by the court, the conviction will stand but the permanent record will note it was neither affirmed nor reversed at the appeal level due to the defendant’s death.
There are a number of lawsuits relating to Hernandez’s crimes and his death, so it’s possible the SJC’s ruling will have some further implications.
Read the full story at the Boston Globe