The family of Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots player who died of what officials say was suicide, plans to donate his brain for study, but Hernandez’s lawyer has accused the medical examiner of “illegally” withholding it.
Hernandez’s brain will be donated to Boston University’s CTE Center, Jose Baez said, when the medical examiner releases it. At issue is whether Hernandez’s violent behavior and mood swings could have been partly explained by chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative nerve disease found in the brains of those who have had repeated or severe hits to the head.
“It is our position that they are holding Aaron Hernandez’s brain illegally,” Baez told reporters, adding that Hernandez’s legal team would head “straight to court” if it did not “get answers and answers quickly.”
After conducting an autopsy, the ME turned over the body of Hernandez to the family but not his brain.
“They’re being vague about what their intentions are,” Baez said. “It’s literally a destruction of evidence issue. There would be no reason for them to withhold the brain.”
The medical examiner’s office has not responded to a request for comment. Hernandez’s body was taken to a funeral home in Watertown, Massachusetts, but the owner told the Boston Globe that there were no plans to hold the funeral there.
“The culture of misconduct and the culture of negligence that goes on in this town is befuddling,” said Baez, who represented Hernandez in a double-murder trial in which he was found not guilty last week. “It’s unbelievable that they would engage in this type of conduct, especially when everyone’s watching.”
The body of the 27-year-old Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, was discovered shortly after 3 a.m. Wednesday by officials at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Massachusetts. Officials say he hanged himself using a bedsheet, although Baez and Hernandez’s agent have called for an investigation, saying that Hernandez was not in a suicidal frame of mind.
About seven hours before his death, he spoke with his fiancee and mother of his 4-year-old daughter, according to one of his lawyers, who did not divulge what he and Shayanna Jenkins-Hernandez discussed.