The state’s highest court reinstated the first-degree murder conviction for Aaron Hernandez, the former Patriots star who committed suicide in his jail cell while in the process of appealing his conviction. The decision Wednesday morning overturns ancient legal precedent that stated a defendant’s conviction should be vacated if they die during the appeals process.
“We conclude that the doctrine … is outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life,” Justice Elspeth Cypher wrote in the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision.
Hernandez was serving life without parole for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player from Dorchester, when officials said they found him hanging in his jail cell in April 2017. Hernandez, 27, had been acquitted in a separate double-murder case days before he took his life.
At issue was a legal principle known as ab initio, which erased Hernandez’s conviction of the Lloyd murder despite being found guilty by a jury in 2015.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn III had urged the court to reinstate Hernandez’s conviction, arguing the legal principle is not “fair or just and should he changed.”
“We are pleased justice is served in this case, the antiquated practice of vacating a valid conviction is being eliminated and the victim’s family can get the closure they deserve,” Quinn said in a tweet Wednesday morning.
While Hernandez’s guilty conviction will be reinstated, court record will note it was neither affirmed nor reversed because he died during a pending appeal.
Patch will update this story