In a country where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, then wouldn’t the same hold true that, once you are proven guilty, you would be presumed guilty until proven innocent? Of course I state logic here, and there is nothing more illogical than the Massachusetts Court System. I say this because I’ve experienced it firsthand (not criminal mind you). About the only thing that you CAN say about the Massachusetts Court System is that they’re consistent – corrupt, illogical and prejudiced – but consistent.
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2017 “Judge E. Susan Garsh said a legal doctrine that calls for vacating convictions when a defendant dies before an appeal can be heard was binding precedent. She said she was compelled to follow it.” The former New England Patriots tight end hung himself in his prison cell last month while serving a life sentence on a first-degree murder conviction in the death of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.
Serving a life sentence – meaning he’d been convicted by a jury of his peers.
Appeal – meaning he didn’t agree with the “murder conviction” and wanted another chance to prove his innocence.
Binding precedent – Blindly following previous decisions without regard (nobody changes policy).
You may ask “why didn’t they hold his appeal case with Hernandez “in absentia”? Well, that wouldn’t be “legal” – and Hernandez knew this. And he also knew that the law would vacate his conviction if he died before his appeal. So he took his own life, to ensure that HIS family (not that of his victim) would be entitled to his entire estate, and that the victim’s family would only get what they had – a lost son and a cold grave.
I’ve said in the past that I feel sad for Aaron Hernandez – a person who had so much to gain in life but instead chose a different path, an ugly path. I always feel sad when I see wasted talent – what “might have been”. And I never really thought that he’d spend the rest of his life in prison. He just wasn’t “that kind of guy”.
But I was shocked when I heard of his suicide – until I heard of the benefits behind it – then everything started to make sense. The crying at his second murder trial (he died five days after being acquitted in a separate double slaying in 2012.) Those tears weren’t of relief – they were because he knew that the end had come and there was only one more step to take.
I was impressed with how cool, calm and collected Odin Lloyd’s mother was when she spoke to the press after learning of the conviction being overturned. She wasn’t a money-grabbing vengeance seeker – she was a mother who was reminded yet again that her son was not there with her, and never would be again. She was someone that did not deserve what she got.
I think, for me, the most puzzling aspect of this is how a convicted murderer’s family can profit while the victim’s family suffers. If Hernandez were alive today, and his key witness – the one that could absolutely prove him innocent – died before the appeals trial, all the court would say is “that’s too bad, case closed”. But if the defendant dies – “OK, conviction reversed”? I fail to see the logic behind that.
Sometimes Judges make decisions that aren’t right (I mean they ARE only human). And it should be up to those that follow to correct these decisions – not to blindly follow them citing “precedent”. This man was convicted of murder and, appeal or not, should be held to this conviction until proven otherwise. If he died of natural causes, that would be one thing, but he knowingly took his own life, and that should NOT be rewarded.
So to Judge E. Susan Garsh I say “Shame on You”. Shame on you for not standing up for the rights of the victim by doing whatever it takes to move this case from a “binding precedent” to an “open decision” – or at least trying. And shame on the Massachusetts Court System for allowing a murderer to not only strike once, but to strike again by denying the victim’s family restitution for their loss. The only precedent you set here is that, in the end, the final score is Murderers 1, Victims 0.