A judge has agreed to erase Aaron Hernandez’s conviction in a 2013 murder case because he died before his appeal was heard.
Judge E. Susan Garsh ruled Tuesday that a legal doctrine that calls for vacating convictions when a defendant dies before the appeal was binding precedent. She said she was compelled to follow it.
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said he plans to appeal the ruling and is willing to take the case all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.
“Despite the tragic ending to Aaron Hernandez’s life, he should not reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule,” Quinn said. “State and federal courts from across the country have rejected this antiquated rule. Massachusetts, in my opinion, needs to follow suit.”
A lawyer for Hernandez’s estate had asked the judge to overturn the conviction after the former New England Patriots tight end hanged himself in his prison cell last month. He was serving a life sentence in the killing of semiprofessional football player Odin Lloyd.
Appellate attorney John Thompson maintained that a conviction is not considered final until it is decided by a higher court.
Ursula Ward, Lloyd’s mother, said the judge’s decision will not affect her view on Hernandez’s culpability and what happened to her son.
“In our book, he’s guilty and he’s going to always be guilty,” Ward said of Hernandez. “But I know, I know one day I’m going to see my son, and that’s the victory that I have and I am going to take with me. I am waiting for my master to say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant, and welcome to the joys of my kingdom.’ And that’s when I’ll see my baby again. …
“I am not giving up. When [God] says the battle is over, the battle is over. So I’m holding on until He tells me to give up.”
Lloyd’s family could still proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit against Hernandez’s estate, despite the ruling.
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