A justice on Massachusetts' highest court has denied prosecutors' request to reinstate the murder conviction of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez.
The conviction in the 2013 fatal shooting of Odin Lloyd was voided by a Superior Court judge in May because Hernandez killed himself in prison.
Under Massachusetts legal principle, courts typically erase the convictions of defendants who die before their direct appeals can be heard.
Bristol District Attorney Thomas Quinn III in July filed an appeal with a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, saying erasing the conviction would undermine the public's trust in jury verdicts.
In a brief ruling issued Friday, Justice David Lowy said Quinn's request is "exercised only in exceptional circumstances."
Quinn's office did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.
A wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by Lloyd's family is still pending; however, the civil case against Hernandez is also likely to be dropped due to the same doctrine that made him a free man in death, according to NBC Boston/necn legal editor Randy Chapman.
This is not the first time a high-profile defendant's death has resulted in a wiped conviction. John Salvi, who was convicted of murdering two people outside a Massachusetts abortion clinici in 1996, committed suicide while his conviction was being appealed, resulted in his conviction being reserved and charges dismissed.
Hernandez was found hanging from a bed sheet attached to his cell window just after 3 a.m. on April 19, just days after he was found not guilty in a 2012 double homicide in Boston. He was pronounced dead about an hour later at UMass Leominster.