The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled Wednesday the former New England Patriots tight end's 2015 murder conviction will stand, overturning a centuries'-old legal mechanism that vacated his original verdict. He was serving a life sentence without parole when officials say he hanged himself in his cell in the state's maximum security facility in April 2017, days after his acquittal in a different double-murder trial.
Prosecutors said the legal principle was unfair to victims and outdated.
"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.
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.
The district attorney whose office prosecuted Hernandez's case applauded the court's decision.
How states handle cases such as Hernandez's varies widely.
"The current practice. does not consider the interest of the other parties who have an interest in the outcome, ' Quinn told the Boston Globe at the time". A lawyer for Lloyd's family said Wednesday that they are pleased with the court's ruling. "They would have an action against the estate because of the wrongful death of their family member".
"This decision has helped the family to obtain closure from the disgusting loss of their beloved son Odin", Attorney Doug Sheff said in a statement.
Other high-profile MA criminals whose convictions have been erased after their deaths include John Salvi, who was convicted of killing two abortion clinic workers and wounding five other people during a shooting rampage in Brookline in 1994.
John Salvi was convicted of murder in 1996 for opening fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Brookline, but his conviction was vacated when he committed suicide in prison before his appeal was heard.
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