A judge in Massachusetts has vacated Aaron Hernandez's conviction in the 2013 murder of Odin L. Lloyd, following the state's legal precedent that erases convictions if a defendant dies before all appeal possibilities are exhausted.
"The longstanding rule is … abating the entire prosecution as if it never happened," Superior Court Judge E. Susan Garsh said late Tuesday (via WBZ TV). "This court is compelled to follow binding precedent."
The Bristol (Mass.) district attorney's office had urged Garsh to uphold the conviction because he made the deliberate choice to commit suicide while the case was under appeal, The Boston Globe reported.
However, Hernandez's appellate attorneys filed paperwork Tuesday asking the judge to ignore how he died.
"The fact of Hernandez's death is not in dispute, and the purported manner of death and description of how the injury occurred are both irrelevant to any issue … that this Court must decide," Hernandez's attorneys, John M. Thompson and Linda J. Thompson, wrote in papers filed Tuesday.
District attorney Thomas M. Quinn III's office last week released Hernandez's suicide note to longtime fiancee Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez in which he not only wrote "I told you what was coming indirectly," apparently a reference to his suicide, but also closed with a parenthetical "You're Rich."
That led to speculation that Hernandez realized his death while his conviction was under appeal could lead to his estate receiving a windfall payment owed if he is legally declared an innocent man.
Garsh's ruling in the case reportedly could mean as much as $6 million could be owed Hernandez's estate, currently worth zero dollars, an attorney for Lloyd's family told TMZ.com.