Aaron Hernandez’s conviction for murdering Odin Lloyd was vacated today by Judge E. Susan Garsh, who oversaw the 2015 trial. Hernandez is now considered an innocent man in the eyes of the law.
Attorneys for Hernandez’s family had filed a motion to abate the conviction in compliance with Massachusetts common practice that defaults to abatement when a defendant has not had the opportunity to see a conviction out to appeal.
In Massachusetts, first-degree murder convictions are automatically sent for appeal. Hernandez’s appeal had been on hold pending his trial for a 2012 double-homicide, for which he was acquitted days before his death.
Prosecutors sought to prevent the abatement, arguing that Hernandez’s suicide was a deliberate forfeiture of his appeal. Additionally, last week they filed into evidence part of Hernandez’s suicide note to his fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez, and a report about a rumor that he had told another inmate that he had learned about the process of abatement.
Judge Garsh said in court that she would not determine the motive of Hernandez’s suicide, and that she “could not draw the inferences claimed by the Commonwealth as proof of forfeiture” of his appeal. Garsh’s decision can be appealed.
The possibility of abatement gained attention due to the simple nature of Hernandez’s celebrity, and the seemingly antiquated law on the books in Massachusetts.
While Hernandez’s abatement is fairly procedural and straightforward—his conviction being upheld would have deviated from most existing case law—it complicates a pending civil lawsuit that Odin Lloyd’s family filed against Hernandez’s estate. The conviction would have made it near-certain that the family would have won their suit. Given the lowered burden of proof in civil cases, however, it’s not as if the abatement rules out Hernandez being found liable in the wrongful-death lawsuit.
As detailed here, there are a number of financial considerations still pending between the NFL, the Patriots, and the NFLPA.
Prosecutors plan to appeal the decision to abate the conviction.