In June 2013, just one year after he had signed a $41 million contract with the New England Patriots, former tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Odin Lloyd was a semi-professional football player and believed to have been Hernandez's friend. Lloyd allegedly dated Hernandez's girlfriend's sister.
On April 15, 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder. The then 25-year-old was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for Lloyd's murder.
Hernandez was then named a suspect in a separate incident and subsequently charged with the 2012 murders of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado.
On April 14, Hernandez was found not guilty of those charges, save for one count of illegal possession of a firearm. At that time, his attorney, Jose Baez, revealed their intentions to continue to appeal Hernandez's first murder conviction.
Sadly, five days later, the 27-year-old died after he allegedly hung himself in his prison cell.
As the Boston Globe reports:
“He was found hanging from a bedsheet attached to a window in his cell in Unit G-2 of the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center at about 3:05 a.m., the state Department of Correction said in a statement. The agency said Hernandez had tried to block the door to prevent officers from entering.”
Hernandez had the Bible verse “John 3:16” written in red ink across his forehead. That particular verse reads:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
While it hasn't been reported that Hernandez left a note explaining his reasons for taking his own life, the Boston Globe reports that his reason could lie within the law.
According to chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association, Martin W. Healy, a legal principle called “abatement ab initio" could mean Hernandez's suicide could wipe out his guilty conviction. The Globe reports:
“Although Hernandez was convicted in 2015 of murdering Odin L. 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.”
Healy further explained the principle:
“It will be as if it never occurred. The indictment, the complaint, the trial, all of that, in the eyes of the law it is considered null and void.”
The lawyer was quick to point out that this might mean more heartbreak for Lloyd's family:
"Unfortunately, in the Odin Lloyd matter, for the family, there won’t be any real closure. Aaron Hernandez will go to his death an innocent man.”
If the suicide clears his conviction, the Patriots may be liable to pay Hernandez's estate the money they withheld from him after he was removed from the team and charged with murder.
The Patriots organization allegedly withheld $3.25 million of Hernandez’s signing bonus as well as his guaranteed base salary, which was $2.5 million.
If the Patriots are legally obligated to pay Hernandez that money, it could go to his and his fiancée's four-year-old daughter, to whom he was seen blowing a kiss in images captured days before his death.
Lloyd's family is still pursuing their civil case, now against Hernandez's estate. It’s unknown how much they will receive in damages, or how the latest developments in the criminal appeal will affect the the civil case