The news hit publications and broadcasting outlets before 7 a.m. on April 19. Aaron Hernandez, former New England Patriots star and more recently convicted murderer, had committed suicide in his prison cell.
The death, just like his case, created a shockwave that registered not just among ardent sports fans, but among the national media and public as well. As the story began to register, the puzzle of Hernandez only became more complex with new information, such as his alleged bisexuality.
Another matter which popped off the scale was the “Abatement ab initio,” with the term being Latin for “from the beginning.” It is a little used phrase in everyday conversation, but is one which may grant Hernandez’s family millions from the New England Patriots. This “Abatement ab initio” is a bewildering wrinkle to Massachusetts law, which outlines that if a person dies while in the process of appealing their conviction, that person is exempt from all charges.
So Hernandez, guilty conviction and all, will technically go to the grave an innocent man. The idea that such a caveat may even be necessary is beyond my understanding. What good does it do a person to be innocent in the eyes of the law if that person can no longer see the light of day?
The only impact this will now have is the opening of a legal Pandora’s Box. The narrative now turns to Hernandez’s financial situation, because as an innocent man in the twisted eye of this doctrine, the Patriots will likely owe some payment of money to Hernandez’s family.
The questions now become, how much of a payment do the Patriots owe, where does that payment go, and will there be any better public embodiment of dirty money than this sum of millions which may soon be coming out of Robert Kraft’s wallet?
The answer to that last question will fundamentally depend on the answer to the first two. The first question of how much money the Patriots will be forced to pay is about as undefined as the air pressure during Deflategate. The more sensationalist stories have reported that the Patriots will have to pay $15 million, but most reports have pulled back on that, stating how it would take the cleverest of lawyers to even think of pulling that off. Although it does look as though the Patriots will be on the books for a $3.25 million payment relating to Hernandez’s signing bonus, which was set to be given to Hernandez this past March.
The next question, pending the answer to the first one, is who this money will be given to. In an uncomfortable turn of events, some have painted Hernandez in a rectifying light, pointing to how as a result of his suicide, the money has a chance to be given to his four-year-old daughter. But any step down the road of sanctifying Hernandez after what he has been convicted of doing is one too many for me. The money also has a shot, however not as likely, to be given to Ursula Ward, mother of Odin Lloyd, who Hernandez was convicted of killing.
If this money is to go anywhere, it would seem the most just destination would be that of Ward, to give her some shred of reparation for the loss of her son. Although despite my utmost remorse for her, this money specifically should be going nowhere. It is the New England Patriots’ money, and will undeservingly be awarded in the name of a killer in Hernandez. For that, we have Massachusetts’ insensible “Abatement ab initio” to thank.
James Justice is a broadcast and visual media major from Caldwell, N.J. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.