Her­nan­dez: Trou­bles, tears in South Florida

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - As­so­ci­ated Press

For­mer Univer­sity of Florida foot­ball star Aaron Her­nan­dez, who was found dead in his jail cell Wed­nes­day, left a trail of blood, law­suits and, in the end, mourn­ing in South Florida.

And thanks to an ob­scure Mas­sachusetts law, hemay be cleared in the crime of which hewas con­victed, au­thor­i­ties said Wed­nes­day.

Mi­ami Dol­phins cen­ter Mike Pouncey, a col­lege room­mate, team­mate and good friend of the ex-New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots player, posted an In­sta­gram mes­sage Wednes---

day about Her­nan­dez, who prison of­fi­cials said hung him­self in­side his jail cell in Mas­sachusetts.

“To my friend my brother! Through thick and thin right or wrong we never left each other’s side. To­day my heart hurts as I got the worse news I could have imag­ined. It­was just a day ago we shared our last convo.

“I will for­ever miss you and love you bro. we will meet again rest easy!,” Pouncey wrote on In­sta­gram.

Her­nan­dez, 27, who played for the Ga­tors with Pouncey, was serv­ing a life sen­tence with no pos­si­bil­ity of pa­role for a 2013 mur­der. Her­nan­dez was ac­quit­ted of a dou­ble mur­der last­week.

Pouncey and his twin brother Mau­r­kice, a cen­ter for the Pitts­burgh Steel­ers, in­fa­mously wore base­ball caps with the words “Free Her­nan­dez” writ­ten on them at their birth­day cel­e­bra­tion in July 2013. He later apol­o­gized.

Her­nan­dez was part of a BCS Na­tional Cham­pi­onship team and was rec­og­nized as an All-Amer­i­can. He was ini­tially drafted by the Pa­tri­ots in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

An of­fi­cial with the Mas­sachusetts Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions says Her­nan­dez was found hanged in his cell just af­ter 3 a.m. Wed­nes­day. Au­thor­i­ties tried to re­vive Her­nan­dez, who was pro­nounced dead at UMass Memo­rial — Health Al­liance Hos­pi­tal in Leomin­ster at 4:07 a.m.

Prison of­fi­cials say Her­nan­dez was in a sin­gle cell in a gen­eral pop­u­la­tion hous­ing unit at the Souza Bara­nowski Cor­rec­tional Cen­ter in Shirley, Mass. They say he hanged him­self us­ing a bed sheet that he at­tached to a cell win­dow.

Au­thor­i­ties say he tried to block the cell door from the in­side by jam­ming the door with var­i­ous items.

Her­nan­dez, who was serv­ing a life sen­tence for the 2013 mur­der, was ac­quit­ted Fri­day in a 2012 dou­ble slay­ing prose­cu­tors said was fu­eled by his anger over a drink spilled at a night­club.

Un­der a long-stand­ing Mas­sachusetts le­gal prin­ci­ple, courts cus­tom­ar­ily va­cate the con­vic­tions of de­fen­dants who die be­fore their ap­peals are heard.

Her­nan­dez was sen­tenced to life in prison for the 2013 mur­der of Odin Lloyd, a semi-pro­fes­sional foot­ball player who was dat­ing the sis­ter of Her­nan­dez’s fi­ancée.

A third sus­pect in the high-pro­file case turned up in Mi­ra­mar in June 2013.

Ernest Wal­lace, 41, who was sought by Mas­sachusetts State Po­lice and was con­sid­ered armed and dan­ger­ous, walked into the lobby of the Mi­ra­mar Po­lice Depart­ment and peace­fully sur­ren­dered.

Her­nan­dez’s at­tor­neys can move to have the con­vic­tion in the Lloyd case erased, said Martin Healy, chief le­gal coun­sel for the Mas­sachusetts Bar As­so­ci­a­tion.

“For all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, Aaron Her­nan­dez will die an in­no­cent man, but the court of pub­lic opin­ion may think dif­fer­ently,” said Healy.

The le­gal prin­ci­ple, “abate­ment ab ini­tio,” holds that it is un­fair to the de­fen­dant or to his or her sur­vivors if a con­vic­tion is al­lowed to stand be­fore they had a chance to clear their names on ap­peal, in case some kind or er­ror or other in­jus­tice was de­ter­mined to have oc­curred at trial, Healy said.

“It’s a sur­pris­ing re­sult for the pub­lic to un­der­stand,” he said.

Her­nan­dez’s ap­peal had not yet been heard by the state’s high court.

Gregg Mil­iote, a spokesman for the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice which pros­e­cuted the Lloyd case, would not com­ment on the pos­si­bil­ity of the con­vic­tion be­ing va­cated.

Last year, a fed­eral law­suit against Her­nan­dez was set­tled af­ter hewas ac­cused of shoot­ing a friend in the face at Toot­sie’s night­club in Mi­ami. Her­nan­dez and as­so­ciate Alexan­derBradley got in­toan ar­gu­ment once they got to Palm Beach County. Bradley lost his right eye, ac­cord­ing to the civil suit. Terms were not dis­closed un­der the set­tle­ment.

AP FILE

Aaron Her­nan­dez, right, in court Fri­day, was found hanged in his cel­lWed­nes­day. He died at the hos­pi­tal.

GETTY IM­AGES FILE

Tight end Aaron Her­nan­dez, right, was in­stru­men­tal in the suc­cess of the Florida Ga­tors foot­ball pro­gram dur­ing the Tim Te­bow era of the late 2000s.

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