Several posts I have seen suggest that Aaron Hernandez did away with himself in an esoteric legal maneuver to ensure that his daughter inherits money. This not legally correct. And it’s a huge DISTRACTION from what is really important here.
The theories hinge on a legal doctrine called ‘abatement ab initiatio’ which destroys the conviction of someone who dies while on an appeal. While this doctrine might come into play in this case it has no real relevance to the final outcome.
The first version of the theory has Hernandez reinstated in his NFL contract. This won’t happen, he wasn’t sent down because of his conviction, but because of his arrest. In fact, even if he was found not-guilty he still wouldn’t have been reinstated. Is this unfair? Yes. Is this legal? Unfortunately. Also, it can happen to you.
The other version of the theory has Hernandez seeking to protect his estate from the victims’ lawyers. This is just inaccurate. One of the most important legal rules in—not just the Constitution—but also Common law in general is the rule against ‘double jeopardy’ which means that you cannot be tried twice on the same case, except in cases of mistrial.
As with many fundamental civil and legal rights this has been eroded to the point of meaninglessness by cupidity and electioneering. Even if you are outright acquitted, expect to find yourself in civil court for the same thing. The legal standard is very low in civil court, so there is a greater likelihood of the complainant succeeding. (Particularly if you have a sizable bank account, but yes this can happen to you too.)
Even though Hernandez is dead, it is possible to bring civil claims against an Estate for ‘wrongful death.’
The reason I am writing this is not to pick picayune legal disputes but to point to two things:
- SUICIDE DOES NOT FIX PROBLEMS! Call 1-800-273-8255 for confidential help that does.
- The American prison system is evil, it does not serve justice, but compounds injustice by creating more wrongs.
Most analyses of the American prison-industrial complex focus on mass overincarceration, especially of blacks. And that’s true, many people in prison are innocent, ‘guilty’ of offences which shouldn’t be offences or guilty of trivial offenses which shouldn’t EVER result in incarceration but there is another problem: American prisons and jails are charnel houses. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse is widespread. Gangs and other criminal enterprises operate openly. Foreign embassies warn their citizens who intend to visit the U.S. against them. Prison reform, both in the administration of prisons and in who is sent to them is desperately needed.
Remember that society is judged by how it treats the least among its ranks. And who could be lesser than those we have chosen to keep under lock and key?
This is enabled by the greatest cancer of American social thinking: If someone slips at the stop of the stairs, we don’t grab their hand to steady them: we shove—hard—and then mozy down to the bottom and spit on them, hating them for falling. This is true not just in criminal ‘justice’ but in the economy. Oh, you fell and broke your spine? Well, you shouldn’t have done that. Just stop being poor already. I digress, but not much.
Now, the point here is not whether or not Hernandez is even guilty, after all murder isn’t ‘slipping’ as much as it is jumping over a cliff, morally speaking. The point is that we have ceased to view prisoners and convicts as human beings. We are devoid of moral feeling towards them. We have chosen to ignore them and to refuse to look at these problems.
The social photographer Jacob Riis documented in pictures the horrors of ‘How the Other Half Lives‘ in his 1890 book of the same name. It shocked the imagination of polite society. This problem was huge, but kept out of sight and so out of mind and so out of remedy. But we have gone back to this, or perhaps never left it.
When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of Heroin use suddenly it was on the front-page of all the Newspapers. Before him, hundreds and thousands of faceless, nameless little people died and we did not care.
The opioid crisis was not and is not new. But one celebrity was all it took…
….all it took to bring about a lot of hand-wringing, protestations of helplessness by officials and by the media and water-cooler “awareness” and a few band-aids such as naloxone with absolutely none of the radical and possibly effectual action.
Will that not yet be the case again here? If that? I am concerned that the U.S. is careening towards state failure.
We have entered into an atmosphere of faux-helplessness: we talk non-stop about huge social problems but even when what is necessary to do is very clear we cannot do it. When it is unclear what to do we are unwilling to try things until we find something that works. Our political system is not capable of functioning. And even more scarily I do not see a path to restoring that capability. We have lost the ability to imagine.