DA argues Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction should not be vacated

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

By committing suicide, did Aaron Hernandez in effect choose to end the appeals process of his conviction for murdering Odin Lloyd in 2013, thus prohibiting him from beating the rap posthumously?

That’s one of the more intriguing arguments prosecutors in Bristol County (Mass.) made in fighting a motion that seeks an abatement of his conviction under an ancient Massachusetts law. Hernandez’s attorneys are arguing Hernandez should be deemed technically innocent because his case was never heard under the state’s automatic appeal process, a requirement for the conviction to be deemed official.

Hernandez’s appellate attorneys filed the motion for abatement on April 20, one day after the former New England Patriots star was found dead in his prison cell after hanging himself with a bedsheet.

Prosecutor’s argued in a court filing Monday that while all first-degree murder convictions in Massachusetts are allowed to be automatically appealed, not all defendants participate in that appeal, thus effectively waving their right. This is usually done by inaction on the behalf of the convicted.

By choosing to die – rather than dying from natural causes, accident or murder himself – Hernandez essentially did the same thing – he chose not to participate in the appeal. Thus, he shouldn’t be granted an abatement, the DA argued.

Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez, front, fiancee of Aaron Hernandez, arrives at his funeral with their daughter Avielle. (AP)

“A defendant who dies without asserting a direct appeal is not entitled to have his convictions abated,” district attorney Thomas M. Quinn’s office wrote in a 28-page filing. “This happens, for example, where a defendant chooses not to lodge an appeal, where he neglects to perfect his appeal or where he chooses to withdraw his appeal.”

The motion was written by Patrick Bomberg, one of the assistant district attorney’s who prosecuted the 2013 murder of Lloyd.

Bomberg deemed Hernandez’s suicide “the result of his own conscious, deliberate and voluntary act” and cited suicide letters left by Hernandez in his cell – “notes evidencing his intention to kill himself.”

A hearing on this matter is schedule for May 9.

Hernandez took his own life just days after being found not guilty on two counts of homicide for the 2012 deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting in Boston. He was, however, still serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the Lloyd murder.

Hernandez’s attorneys have argued that under Massachusetts law a person who dies before a full appeal of a conviction can be heard has that verdict withdrawn and then is presumed innocent. Doing so could complicate efforts from victims seeking civil lawsuits as well as impact other financial interests for Hernandez’s estate.

Bomberg presented numerous arguments against that, including the low probability the appeal would be successful due to the overwhelming evidence that Hernandez murdered Lloyd. It argued the general misappropriation and uneven use of the law.

The filing even noted that dying ended Hernandez’s sentence and thus his dealings with the criminal judicial system.

“By his death he has completed his lawful sentence for his murder conviction,” Bomberg wrote. “… It is in the interest of justice that this defendant not be allowed to avoid a conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd.”

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