Deceased former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez's 2013 murder conviction will stand, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced Wednesday.
The Supreme Judicial Court on Wednesday, however, decided the conviction will stand - but added the court record will note the conviction was neither affirmed nor reversed because the defendant died during the appeal process. His death came only a few days after being acquitted in a separate double murder case.
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.
At the time of the abatement, prosecutors argued that throwing out Hernandez's conviction would "reward the defendant's conscious, deliberate and voluntary act" of killing himself and that the abatement rule has no solid historical or legal basis. They stated that the legal ruling which led to the previous decision is "outdated and no longer consonant with the circumstances of contemporary life".
A judge threw out Hernandez's conviction that year, citing the legal principle that holds that a defendant convicted at trial who dies before an appeal is heard should no longer be considered guilty in the eyes of the law, thereby returning the case to its pretrial status.
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During his arguments before the court, Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said, "The practice of wiping out a jury verdict like it never occurred is not fair or equitable".
Prosecutors have said the legal doctrine is outdated and unfair to victims.
John Salvi, who was convicted of killing two abortion clinic workers in Brookline in 1994, had that ruling overturned when he committed suicide in 1996. His lawyers then filed for abatement ab initio to vacate the conviction because he died during the appeal.
There was no immediate comment from Hernandez's attorney.
The Patriots took Hernandez in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.