Judge Agrees To Toss Aaron Hernandez’s 2013 Murder Conviction

FALL RIVER, Mass. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former NFL star Aaron Hernandez’s conviction in a 2013 murder can be erased because he died before his appeal was heard, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge E. Susan Garsh said a legal doctrine that calls for vacating convictions when a defendant dies before an appeal can be heard was binding precedent. She said she was compelled to follow it.

Prosecutor Patrick Bomberg had argued that Hernandez “should not be able to accomplish in death what he could not accomplish in life.”

Hernandez’s appellate attorney told the judge that the state’s highest court has applied the legal doctrine “without exception,” even in cases of suicide.

The former New England Patriots tight end hanged himself in his prison cell last month while serving a life sentence in the killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.

His death came five days after a jury acquitted him in the 2012 shooting deaths of two men whom prosecutors alleged he gunned down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him at a Boston nightclub.

Investigators suggested Hernandez shot Lloyd to keep him quiet about the two earlier killings.

In a court filing last week, Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III argued that a defendant’s death while an appeal is pending does not always require what is known as “abatement,” including when “a defendant’s death is a result of his own conscious, deliberate and voluntary act.”

Hernandez’s appellate lawyers say his conviction in the Lloyd case is not considered final because the automatic appeal he was entitled to had not been heard at the time of his death.

Ursula Ward, Lloyd’s mother, fought back tears as she addressed reporters Tuesday.

“In our book, he’s guilty,” she said. “And he’s always going to be guilty.”

Meanwhile, appellate attorney John Thompson told reporters he still has doubts about whether Hernandez killed himself.

Thompson said he has recent correspondence from Hernandez in which he said he was interested in pursuing an appeal.

Hernandez’s lead attorney in his recent double murder trial, Jose Baez, has pledged to do an independent investigation into his death.

Hernandez, who grew up in Bristol, Connecticut and played football at the University of Florida, was considered an up-and-coming star during his three seasons with the Patriots. He was cut from the team hours after his arrest in the killing of Lloyd.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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