Aaron Hernandez attorney: Family wants to donate ex-NFL star’s brain for research

BOSTON (CBS) Aaron Hernandez’s attorney says that the state medical examiner’s office is keeping the former NFL player’s family from donating his brain to research.

“It is literally a destruction of evidence issue,” said Jose Baez on Thursday.

Baez says Hernandez’s family wants his brain tested for CTE at Boston University. CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, is a disease often found in the brains of athletes who have sustained head traumas. Baez told reporters the family had made arrangements with the university to coordinate the removal of Hernandez’s brain according to specific protocols, and that the medical examiner’s office is “holding Aaron Hernandez’s brain illegally.”

“If we don’t get answers quickly we’re going straight to court,” said Baez.

About two hours after Baez spoke to the media, the Worcester County District Attorney released a statement officially ruling Hernandez’s death a suicide and announcing they would release the former NFL star’s brain to BU’s CTE Center.

Hernandez, 27, was found hanging in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley just after 3 a.m., Department of Correction spokesman Christopher Fallon said in a statement. The former Patriots tight end was pronounced dead at UMass Memorial-Health Alliance Hospital in Leominster about an hour later.

Officials have ruled his death a suicide. When asked if he accepted the ruling, Baez said, “We’ll accept the determination after an investigation is complete.”

Reporters asked Baez if he thought Hernandez suffered from CTE, but Baez would only say, “We need to leave no stone unturned and we need to specifically do everything possible to find out what happened.”

Just last week Hernandez was acquitted of double murder in the deaths of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in July 2012, which prosecutors said were fueled by his anger over a drink spilled at a nightclub.

Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd in June 2013. Prosecutors suggested Lloyd may have been killed to keep him quiet about the 2012 Boston killings.

Hernandez was convicted of killing Lloyd in 2015, but the conviction could be thrown out following his death due to an obscure legal doctrine in Massachusetts law known as “abatement ab initio.” The law states that a conviction can be vacated if the defendant dies before exhausting all legal appeals. Such a move would have implications for civil proceedings against Hernandez’s estate, according to CBS Boston.