A Bristol County judge threw out Aaron Hernandez' first-degree murder conviction for the 2013 shooting of Odin L. Lloyd Tuesday because case law in Massachusetts states that defendants who die before they're able to file appeals should have their convictions erased.
The ruling means the former New England Patriots tight end is innocent in the eyes of the law, but his alleged victim's family still thinks otherwise.
"In our book, (Hernandez is) guilty and he's going to always be guilty," Ursula Ward, Lloyd's mother, told ESPN. "But I know, I know one day I'm going to see my son, and that's the victory that I have and I am going to take with me."
"I am not giving up," Ward continued tearfully. "When (God) says the battle is over, the battle is over. So I'm holding on until He tells me to give up."
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn III said he'll appeal the abatement and will take the case all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court if necessary so that Hernandez cannot "reap the legal benefits of an antiquated rule."
Hernandez hung himself with a bedsheet on April 19, just five days after he was found not guilty of a 2012 double murder.
No one is sure why Hernandez killed himself, though prosecutor Patrick Bomberg said he believes it was a "calculated act."
One theory: If Hernandez knew about Massachusetts' vacated conviction rule, he may have committed suicide to force the Patriots into giving his family the $6 million that's left on his contract. (The NFL withheld the money after Hernandez was arrested, but if the convictions are erased from his record, his family might be able to collect it.)
This theory may be supported by Hernandez' own suicide note: "YOU'RE RICH," he wrote to his fiancée in all caps.
But Douglas Sheff, an attorney who's representing Ward in a wrongful-death lawsuit against Hernandez, isn't banking on that just yet.
"We don't know what that (note) refers to," Sheff said. "We'd like to find out."