Prosecutors have filed an appeal seeking to reinstate former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez's 2015 murder conviction after it was thrown out following his prison suicide.
Hernandez was convicted in April 2015 for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and sentenced to life in prison. But Hernandez hanged himself in his prison cell on April 19, 2017 while his appeal was still pending.
Under a long-standing Massachusetts doctrine, courts customarily vacate the convictions of defendants who die before their appeals are heard. A Fall River Superior Court judge abated his conviction on May 9.
"Abatement has been practiced in federal and state courts for more than a century," Judge E. Susan Garsh said in issuing her ruling, adding that there is no proof that Hernandez killed himself knowing it could lead to his conviction being tossed.
His suicide came just five days after he was acquitted in a separate double slaying in 2012.
Bristol District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III's office filed an appeal of the judge's ruling on Friday.
"This is an archaic rule not based on the Constitution, and it should be changed," Quinn said in a statement. "A defendant who commits suicide should not be able to manipulate the outcome of his post-conviction proceedings to achieve in death what he would not be able to achieve in life."
Hernandez's appellate lawyers have argued that his conviction in the Lloyd case was not considered final because the automatic appeal he was entitled to had not been heard at the time of his death.
Since Hernandez's death, a bill has been filed with the Massachusetts Legislature seeking to end the practice of automatically dismissing convictions when a defendant dies before appeal.