Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell on Wednesday morning after hanging himself using bed sheets and, under Massachusetts law, that means the murder conviction that sent him to prison in the first place has been voided.
Hernandez was still in the process of appealing his 2014 conviction of murdering Odin Lloyd, which means a legal principle dating back to English common law called “abatement ab initio” applies to his case. “Ab initio” translates to “from the beginning” and chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association Michael Healy told the Boston Globe that the principle reverts a case to its start if the convicted party dies before the appeals process has concluded. Healy said that civil proceedings in other cases involving the death of the convicted party were complicated because evidence established in the criminal trial cannot be used to make the civil case.
“Unfortunately, in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure,” Healy said. “Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man.” Not all states still have “abatement ab initio” on the books and some eliminated it after the death of those convicted in high profile cases. Healy said it would not be surprising if a Massachusetts legislator introduced legislation to eliminate it in the state in light of Hernandez’s suicide.