The office of the Bristol County District Attorney has released a statement following a judge’s ruling to vacate Aaron Hernandez’ 2013 murder conviction. Associated emphasis (in bold) is that of the DA’s office, not of the station.
Aaron Hernandez took his own life almost two years to the day after he was convicted by a Bristol County jury of murder. The taking of his own life brings an end to a tragic series of events that has caused great pain to many people. In particular, the family and friends of Odin Lloyd, who loved him very much. And, the family and friends of Aaron Hernandez, who are also grieving his loss. Despite the tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez’s life, he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule.
State and federal courts from across the country have rejected this antiquated rule. Massachusetts, in my opinion, needs to follow suit.
These courts have found that when a defendant commits suicide, and I quote, “he deprives himself of a final determination of his case’s merits. Justice does not require abatement of a conviction when the defendant himself prevents a review of the merits.” (Wisconsin)
A federal court likewise concluded that, quote, ““it defies common sense to allow a defendant to be absolved of criminal liability so carefully arrived at by a jury because he intentionally took his own life before the appeal process could run. By his suicide, the defendant waives his right to appeal.”
Another state court has ruled that, and I quote, “The conviction of a criminal defendant destroys the presumption of innocence regardless of the existence of an appeal of right. We therefore find it inappropriate to abate a criminal conviction.” (Michigan)
Over the course of the very public three and a half month long trial, more than 140 witnesses testified and more than 400 exhibits were presented as evidence. After several days of deliberation, the jury convicted the defendant of the first degree murder of Odin Lloyd. Mr. Hernandez was afforded the presumption of innocence from the moment of his arrest to the return of the verdict. However, that all changed when the jury convicted Aaron Hernandez of murdering Odin Lloyd. To allow an archaic rule to erase the jury’s verdict flies in the face of common sense and basic fairness.
To allow the defendant to exploit this outdated rule in Massachusetts undermines confidence in the fair administration of justice, and the victim’s and the community’s right to the integrity and respect of a jury’s verdict. At the very least, the court should strike a reasonable balance between the rights of defendants, victims and the public.
I would like to thank the entire prosecution team and investigators for their efforts in this case and the many sacrifices they had to make to obtain justice for Odin Lloyd and his family. And I would like to thank Ursula Ward, the mother of Odin Lloyd, for the patience, perseverance and dignity she displayed throughout this very difficult process. I would also like to thank the jurors for their service and the sacrifices they made for a trial of this length. The efforts they made to reach a fair verdict should be honored.
On April 19, 2017 Aaron Hernandez deliberately, consciously and voluntarily chose to end his life. He died a guilty man and a convicted murderer. This fact is indisputable. He should not be able to accomplish in death, what he could not have accomplished in life.
We plan to file an appeal.