The family of former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez wants to donate his brain to Boston University for CTE research, but there is already controversy around how the situation is being handled.
Jose Baez, Hernandez's attorney who represented Hernandez in the trial in which the former Pro Bowl tight end was acquitted of a double murder, believes that Hernandez's brain is being held illegally.
"It is our position that they are holding Aaron Hernandez's brain illegally," Baez told reporters on Tuesday in front of the state medical examiner's office in Boston, where Hernandez's autopsy was being conducted. "It's literally a destruction of evidence issue," he said. "There would be no reason for them to withhold the brain."
Hernandez, 27, who was serving a life sentence for killing Odin Lloyd in 2012, hung himself in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass. just after 3 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
Baez told reporters that he was not contending that his former client had CTE, but rather that the family wants to know if he did.
"If we don't get answers and answers quickly, we're going straight to court," Baez said.
Hernandez's family wants to see if the former football player had the brain condition many former NFL players have been posthumously diagnosed with that is caused by repeated hits to the head and neck area. Baez and Hernandez's family believe that the former football standout wouldn't have killed himself.
"The family and legal team is shocked and surprised at the news of Aaron's death," Baez said told the Boston Herald. "There were no conversations or correspondence from Aaron to his family or legal team that would have indicated anything like this was possible. Aaron was looking forward to an opportunity for a second chance to prove his innocence."
Dan Bennett, the state's secretary for Public Safety and Security, released a statement on Thursday in response to Baez's claims.
"The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is conducting an investigation into the circumstances of Aaron Hernandez's death, which may require further analysis of his body. Once that is complete the brain will be released to Boston University," Bennett said. "No one is going to stand in the way of the family’s wishes for Boston University to have Aaron Hernandez’s brain."