In a story worthy of an OJ Simpson like drama series, the apparent suicide of former NFL tight end and now convicted murderer, Aaron Hernandez has stunned those that knew him and many others in around the league.
In the early hours of April 19th, correctional officers found Hernandez hanging by his bed sheets in his cell at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Massachusetts. The facility in question is a maximum security prison, which is one of the most technologically advanced prisons in the country.
Just last week, Hernandez was found not guilty in a double homicide charge in the killing of two men in a drive-by shooting outside a Boston nightclub in July 2012. However, Hernandez was found guilty of the murder of his former friend, Odin Lloyd in 2013.
Hernandez was arrested for Lloyd’s murder on 26th June 2013, and he was found guilty of first degree murder on 15th April 2015. The mandatory first degree murder sentence saw Hernandez receive life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The not guilty verdict in last weeks trial, led to Hernandez’s legal team launching an appeal against the original life sentence put down for the Lloyd murder.
However, a rather curious Massachusetts law (abatement ab initio) states that, if an individual who is convicted and then appeals their conviction dies, before the conclusion of their appeal, their legal records and earlier conviction may be wiped clean by the state.
Thus, Hernandez could be posthumously exonerated for the murder of Odin Lloyd.
Even before his arrest in 2013, the former Patriot had a checkered history right back to his his time at the University of Florida. Two incidents in Gainesville in 2007, one a payment dispute in a restaurant, and the other a car shooting were widely reported to include Hernandez. In the case of the second incident, Hernandez invoked his right to silence, thus denying authorities a chance to gain information and press charges.
Furthermore in 2013, Hernandez’ former friend, Alexander Bradley filed a federal law suit, claiming, that the defendant shot him in the eye whilst they travelled in a car together in Miami. The charges pressed for this incident were for the most part included in the 2012 double homicide trial that he was found not guilty in.
The circumstances in which Hernandez’ body was found, have also raised speculation about what occurred in his last hours. Reportedly, the deceased man was found with the words John 3:16, a biblical reference, written across his forehead, with multiple suicide letter found in the cell. Various pieces of cardboard were stuffed under the door in an attempt to barricade the way into the cell as well.
Only hours after Hernandez’ passing, his former agent, Brian Murphy tweeted, “Absolutely no chance he took his own life. Chico was not a saint, but my family and I loved him and he would never take his own life.”
The tweet certainly contributed to the notion that foul play cannot be ruled out as many associates and members of the media have speculated.
Others however were horrified at the notion made by Murphy, that Hernandez was murdered, and perhaps somehow a ‘victim’. Curiously, Murphy failed to address the fact that if Hernandez couldn’t take his own life, he could take the lives of others.
His suicide came on the same day that many of his former Patriot coaches and teammates visited the White House, one of the best perks about winning yet another Super Bowl. The Patriots organisation chose not to address his death yesterday, but may make an official comment in the future.
Hernandez was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the second talented tight end the Patriots selected that year, after Rob Gronkowski. Over his three seasons in the NFL, Hernandez developed into a highly versatile and effective pass catcher that earned the trust of Tom Brady, in a Patriots’ offence that was and still is one of the league’s best.
Prior to his arrest in 2013, Hernandez was given a hefty contract extension, an extension that he regrettably never played for.
The true tragedy of Aaron Hernandez is the damage he inflicted on those closest to him. His fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, his daughter, Avielle 5, who will only remember her father as a man in orange behind bars. Friends, family, teammates both in New England and Florida, and the men whom Hernandez has intimidated, assaulted and murdered as well as their families have all lost as a result of one man’s inexcusable actions and reprehensible choices.
With so many young American men, growing up in less than satisfactory living and education conditions, who would do anything to have the opportunities Hernandez has been presented with, it’s hard to exhibit much in the manner of sympathy. He was a talented young man, with a potentially promising future and the ability to provide financial stability for his young family. Ultimately though, despite the warning signs, the roadblocks, the numerous close calls, and every opportunity to take the right path he failed, and set upon so many people the consequences that have come with it.