Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his cell on Wednesday morning, just days after being acquitted for a 2012 double homicide.
At the time of his death, Hernandez was serving a life sentence without parole in a Massachusetts prison after he was found guilty of the 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd.
According to Massachusetts law, that conviction is automatically appealed to the state's highest court.
Because Hernandez had not exhausted all of his appeals when he died, his conviction in the Lloyd case will be voided.
The void in the case is due to a legal principle called “abatement ab initio,” which in Latin, means to roll back a process to its beginning. It's essentially a rule stating that a defendant that is deceased will be treated as though they never were convicted of that crime.
“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,” Martin W. Healy, chief legal counsel to the Massachusetts Bar Association told the Boston Globe. “But in a court of law, under legal principles, [Hernandez] died an innocent man.”
Hernandez, 27, was found hanged in his cell by corrections officers at the Souza Barnowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass. at 3:05 a.m. and died an hour later at a nearly hospital.
Authorities say that Hernandez used a bed sheet that he attached to a cell window to hang himself after first attempting to block the door by jamming the door with several items.