AARON HERNANDEZ’S SUICIDE MEANS THAT HIS PREVIOUS MURDER CONVICTION IS VOIDED

In the eyes of the state of Massachusetts, former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez died an innocent man, thanks to an archaic legal principle called “abatement ab initio,” said Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association.

Though Hernandez was convicted in 2014 of murdering Odin Lloyd of Boston, Hernandez’s appeal was not complete. Abatement ab initio means “from the beginning,” Healy said, and it means that upon a person’s death, if they have not exhausted their legal appeals, their case reverts to its status at the beginning — it’s as if the trial and conviction never happened.

“Unfortunately, in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure,” said Healy. “Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man.”

The principle comes from English common law, Healy said, and is observed by several of the older states in the nation. It rarely comes up in practice, he said, and people forget it exists.

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