The attorney who represented Aaron Hernandez in his recent criminal trial accused the Massachusetts state medical examiner Thursday of illegally keeping the former NFL star's brain rather than turning it over to a university that studies brain injuries in football players.
"They are holding Aaron Hernandez's brain illegally" attorney Jose Baez said at a news conference outside the medical examiner's office. "It is unbelievable that they are engaging in this type of conduct."
Hernandez, a Bristol, Conn., native was serving a life sentence for murder when he was found dead in his cell early Wednesday, Massachusetts prison officials said. He tied a bed sheet to a window, corrections officials said. The Massachusetts State Police are investigating the death.
Baez said he is prepared to go to court to get the medical examiner to turn over the brain. He said time is of the essence for being able to properly study Hernandez's brain.
"We will take whatever steps are necessary to get Aaron's brain returned, including filing a civil lawsuit against their medical examiner," Baez said.
Baez said the test for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) would be part of an investigation his office is going to conduct into Hernandez's death. He said it is potentially an important part.
Families of several NFL players who have committed suicide or died through other violent acts have donated the players' brains in an effort to determine whether there is a link between brain damage and the violent collisions on the field.
Hernandez, 27, was serving a life sentence for the murder of Odin Lloyd in 2013. That case was scheduled for appeal in front of the Massachusetts Appeals Court next year.
Hernandez was acquitted last week in a 2012 double murder that prosecutors alleged was the result of a nightclub altercation over a spilled drink. Hernandez wept after the verdict was announced, looking toward his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, who started using the Hernandez name in 2015.
Baez said Thursday that given issues that arose surrounding the medical examiner's office during the recent trial, Hernandez's family has no confidence it will conduct a fair and thorough investigation into the death or into studying his brain.
He said that's why well-known forensic pathologist Michael Baden has been hired to do an independent autopsy of Hernandez. Baden was seen leaving the Faggas Funeral Home in Watertown, Mass. where Hernandez's body had been taken Thursday morning. Baez said Baden was conducting his autopsy Thursday.
Baez said that BU doctors were expecting to pick up Hernandez's brain at 10 a.m. Thursday but were instead told that the medical examiner's office was gong to hold onto it and conduct tests itself.
Instead, Baez said, BU officials were told that the medical examiner's office wanted to take samples themselves for testing before releasing the brain.
The family decided to donate Hernandez's brain to possibly help others.
"They want to help other young man, and woman, who play football," Baez said.
WBZ-TV, a CBS affiliate in Boston, reported that authorities believe Hernandez may have smoked a synthetic marijuana known as K2 hours before his death. The station also reported that he was found with "John 3:16" – the Bible verse sometimes seen written on signs at sporting events – written on his forehead.
During the recent trial, Hernandez was also seen blowing kisses to his 4-year-old daughter, Avielle. Jenkins Hernandez brought Avielle to the courtroom during the fourth day of deliberations.
Besides his fiancee and daughter, Hernandez leaves his mother, Terri, and his brother, Jonathan. He was predeceased by his father, Dennis.