Hernandez, who played for the New England Patriots at the time, was arrested for first-degree murder in 2013, days after his friend Lloyd’s body was found.
The Patriots player was sentenced to life without possibility of parole in April 2015 and found dead in his prison cell in 2017.
Here, we examine why Aaron Hernandez was considered innocent after his suicide, and the case highlighted by the new Netflix show.
What happened to Odin Lloyd and how was he connected to Hernandez?
Odin Lloyd was the boyfriend of Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee’s sister.
In June 2013, Lloyd’s body was found in an industrial park, about a mile from Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts.
Lloyd’s body had multiple gunshot wounds to the back and chest.
Police then searched Hernandez’s home in connection to the fatal shooting, before charging him with first-degree murder, in addition to five other gun-related charges.
Shortly after his arrest, the Patriots released him from the team.
In April 2015, Hernandez was found guilty of murder and received a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The aftermath and Aaron Hernandez’s death
In addition to Odin’s death, Hernandez was investigated in connection to the double homicide of two immigrants, Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu and Safiro Teixeira Furtado, that took place in July a year prior.
Witnesses testified that Hernandez’s silver SUV had pulled up next to the victims and another passenger in the car yelled at the two men.
Hernandez was acquitted of both their murders in April 2017, five days after he was found dead in his cell in Shirley, Massachusetts.
Following his death, researchers at Boston University studied Hernandez’s brain and diagnosed him with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated head trauma.
The study led by Dr Ann McKee suggested that CTE, which results in poor judgment, inhibition of impulses, aggression, anger, paranoia, emotional volatility, and rage behaviours, may explain some of Hernandez’s criminal acts.
Discussing Hernandez’s case, McKee said: “In any individual we can’t take the pathology and explain the behaviour, but we can say collectively, in our collective experience, individuals with CTE and CTE of this severity have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behaviours.”
The NFL star’s funeral
Hernandez hanged himself in his cell, with his death ruled a suicide.
At the time, ABC News reported that personal items, including notes written by Hernandez, were handed over to family members after his death.
A private funeral took place at the O’Brien Funeral Home in Bristol, and was attended by Hernandez’s fiancee, 4-year-old daughter, mother and brother, as well as close family members and friends.
Why was Hernandez considered innocent after his suicide and what is abatement?
In the wake of Hernandez’s death, he was, for a time, considered innocent, due to a little-known legal loophole referred to as the doctrine of abatement ab initio.
Recognised by virtually every federal court of appeals in the US, the doctrine states that when a convicted defendant dies while an appeal of their conviction is pending, their conviction becomes null and void.
Despite the fact the rule was introduced in the 19th Century, the Massachusetts judge overseeing Hernandez’s case, Susan Garsh, recognised its legal validity.
Judge Garsh said she “had no choice” but to honour the longstanding precedent.
Speaking to USA Today about the decision, Odin’s mother Ursula Ward said: “In our book, he’s guilty, and he’s going to always be guilty.”
After speculation over Hernandez’s decision to take his life, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled to reinstate his conviction in March 2019.