In death, Hernandez's murder conviction likely to be tossed

In death, Hernandez's murder conviction likely to be tossed

BOSTON -- In death, Aaron Hernandez may not be a guilty man in the eyes of the law.

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Under a long-standing Massachusetts legal principle, courts customarily vacate the convictions of defendants who die before their appeals are heard.

Hernandez, a former NFL star, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez's finance.

Massachusetts prison officials said Hernandez was found hanging in his prison cell early Wednesday. His death came less than a week after his acquittal on murder charges in the shooting deaths of two men in Boston in 2012.

Hernandez's attorneys can move to have the conviction in the Lloyd case erased, said Martin Healy, chief legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association.

"For all intent and practical purposes, Aaron Hernandez will die an innocent man, but the court of public opinion may think differently," said Healy.

The legal principle is called "abatement ab initio," or "from the beginning." It holds that is unfair to the defendant or to his or her survivors if a conviction is allowed to stand before they had a chance to clear their names on appeal, in case some kind or error or other injustice was determined to have occurred at trial, Healy said.

"It's a surprising result for the public to understand," he added.

All first-degree murder convictions in Massachusetts trigger an automatic appeal. Hernandez's appeal had not yet been heard by the state's high court.

Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the district attorney's office which prosecuted the Lloyd case, would not comment on the possibility of the conviction being vacated.

Removing a conviction after the death of a high-profile defendant is not without precedent in recent state history.

The child molestation conviction of former Roman Catholic priest John Geoghan, a key figure in the clergy sex abuse scandal that rocked the Boston archdiocese, was vacated after he was beaten to death in 2003 in his cell at the same Massachusetts maximum-security prison.

John Salvi, who was convicted of killing two abortion clinic workers and wounding five other people during a shooting rampage in Brookline in 1994, also had his convictions tossed after he killed himself in prison.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.