Court reinstates late Aaron Hernandez's murder conviction

The murder conviction of Aaron Hernandez shown in 2012 has been reinstated by the highest court in Massachusetts

Deceased former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's 2013 murder conviction will stand, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced Wednesday.

The Supreme Judicial Court's decision comes almost two years after a state judge vacated Hernandez's murder conviction after the former National Football League star's suicide.

After the 27-year-old former athlete hung himself, his family turned his brain over to scientists who determined that Hernandez had the one of the worst cases of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy that they had ever seen.

The judges said Tuesday that the Commonwealth's law automatically vacating the conviction because of Hernandez's suicide is "outdated".

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"Rather, when a defendant dies irrespective of cause, while a direct appeal as of right challenging his conviction is pending, the proper course is to dismiss the appeal as moot and note in the trial court record that the conviction removed the defendant's presumption of innocence, but that the conviction was appealed and neither affirmed nor reversed because the defendant died", Justice Elspeth Cypher wrote in the court's decision.

During his arguments before the court, Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said, "The practice of wiping out a jury verdict like it never occurred is not fair or equitable".

MA courts had generally recognized a legal rule called "abatement ab initio", or abatement, in which convictions are thrown out if a defendant dies prior his or her appeal being resolved. That conviction was voided, however, because Hernandez apparently died by suicide during the appeals process (he was found hanging in his cell). The prosecution then appealed, seeking to have the conviction reinstated. Quinn told the court that the defendant's estate should be allowed to appeal the case, if they wish. "It has solidified their faith in the Massachusetts Justice System".

Hernandez's conviction was tossed after he committed suicide in April 2017 while in prison - thanks to a state law that erases murder raps in the event of an inmate's death.

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