You don’t have to be a football fan to know the name Aaron Hernandez. Hernandez was the former New England Patriots tight end who took his own life on April 17th, 2017, just days after he was acquitted of all charges in a 2012 double murder case in Boston. After the acquittal, Hernandez remained in jail for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a man whom Hernandez knew and occasionally hung out with. Before the dust had even settled from the court case, Hernandez was found dead in the jail, hanging by a bedsheet in his cell. He left behind a series of notes, some of which are illuminating and others baffling.
I still remember my reaction after reading the headline on ESPN.com. Why would this man, upon being found innocent of a crime, hang himself so abruptly? If he were truly innocent, did this make him innocent in the Odin Lloyd case as well? Was he actually as evil as we were led to believe? Of course, as I considered all this, a darker possibility loomed: Did Aaron Hernandez take his own life because he really was complicit in the murders for which he’d just been cleared? Was his death the result of a troubled conscience?
I tended to believe the latter. I think most of the country did, too. Hernandez had been portrayed in the media as a gun-toting gangster whose hyper-masculine tendencies had gotten him in trouble on multiple occasions. The prior murder conviction certainly didn’t do anything to help his public image, either. I, along with a lot of people, assumed that the guilt of his actions had become too much to bear, and Aaron took his own life as a result. I didn’t give the situation much of a second thought until I picked up Jose Baez’s book a year and a half later. Continue reading