The law of Massachusetts incorporates the English common law doctrine of abatement ab initio (from the beginning). According to Martin Healy,
chief legal counsel of the Massachusetts Bar Association, the principle applies to a criminal defendant who dies before all appeals are exhausted. A defendant is not considered truly guilty unless all appeals of a conviction are completed and the matter is finally close. In Hernandez’ case, the effect of abatement ab initio is the equivalent of him never having been indicted or convicted. He died an innocent man with no criminal convictions.
The former New England Patriots tight end's death came less than a week after he was acquitted by a jury of two counts of murder that occurred in a drive-by shooting in Boston in 2012. But in April 2015, Hernandez was convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd
on June 13, 2013. Lloyd was the boyfriend of Hernandez’ fiancée’s sister. Hernandez was later sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole. The conviction was under appeal at the time of his death.
The fact Hernandez will now be legally not guilty of murder will make it more difficult
for Lloyd’s family members or anyone else to obtain a civil judgement against his estate. It is easy to prove a murder in a civil trial when there is a conviction because a criminal conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, far less than the civil standard of a preponderance of the evidence. Lloyd’s mother says she still intends to pursue her wrongful death claim against Hernandez.
Abatement ab initio could also have financial consequences for the New England Patriots. The Patriots refused to pay Hernandez the $3.25 million left on his signing bonus after he was arrested for Lloyd's killing. With the facts behind the refusal now gone, the team may have to pay that amount to Hernandez’ estate.
And it is possible the former player’s estate will now be entitled to claim a pension from the NFL for the time he played for the Patriots.
Hernandez’ death ruled a suicide
Hernandez, 27, was found dead in his jail cell early Wednesday morning. The former NFL player was housed in a single cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center when officers looked in on him shortly after 3:05 a.m. Correctional officers found he had tied a bed sheet to the window
in his cell and hanged himself. He had cut his finger and wrote “John 3:16” in blood on his forehead. A bible in his cell was opened to that verse.
Hernandez had attempted to jam the door to his cell by placing various objects in front of it. Officers did manage to get in and attempted to revive him. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead an hour later.
An autopsy was performed later that day. On Thursday
, a medical examiner found Hernandez’ death was the result asphyxia from hanging and confirmed the fact Hernandez took his own life.
Yesterday, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said
the Massachusetts legislature might want to revisit the principle of abatement ab initio.