BOSTON (WHDH) — The defense team that represented ex-New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez in his 2012 double-murder trial announced Thursday that a study conducted on his brain found that he suffered from a “severe” case of degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy and said a lawsuit has been filed against the team on behalf of his family.
The independent study was conducted following the 27-year-old’s jailhouse suicide. Attorney Jose Baez said the findings showed Hernandez suffered from a stage 3 case of CTE, caused by repeated blows to the head on the football field. Stage 4 is the most severe case. CTE can only be diagnosed in an autopsy.
In a press conference at his law firm, Baez spoke about the study’s findings, which were conducted by Boston University. Experts found that Hernandez’s brain was damaged so badly that it looked like it was from a 67-year-old person.
“Not only where the results positive, but we are told that it was the most severe case ever seen in someone of Aaron’s age,” Baez said.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court on behalf of Hernandez’s young daughter, claims the New England Patriots and the NFL deprived Avielle Hernandez of the companionship of her father. The family is seeking $20 million in damages. The lawsuit is separate from a $1 billion settlement in which the NFL agreed to pay families of players who suffered brain damage.
The lawsuit alleges the NFL “deliberately concealed the fact that playing in the NFL could lead to permanent irreversible brain damage.” It also said that Hernandez was “exposed to repeated traumatic head impacts between 2010 and 2013.”
Baez said the entire Hernandez family is deeply saddened by the study’s findings and that everyone wishes the disease was found earlier.
“If could have been a little bit more educated on this topic, and more so our client, our client may have been able to understand what was actually happening to him. That could have ultimately prevented his death,” Baez said.
The state had refused to turn Hernandez’s brain over for study following his sudden death. The former tight end was found dead in his jail cell at Shirley’s Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center on April 19.
Baez spoke out against the state in a press conference outside the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner after his client’s death, pushing for the release of his brain for study purposes.
Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the 2013 shooting death of semi-pro football player Odin Llloyd, who was dating the sister of his fiancee. Just days before his death, Hernandez was found not guilty in the killings of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. Baez and the rest of Hernandez’s defense team had plans to appeal the murder conviction.
An investigation conducted by the state found that Hernandez had jammed cardboard in the tracks of his jail cell door before he hanged himself with a bed sheet. Suicide notes were found near Hernandez and a reference to a biblical passage in ink was found on his forehead and in blood on the wall of his prison cell.
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