The state medical examiner’s office announced Thursday afternoon that it will release the brain of Aaron Hernandez to his family, hours after Hernandez’s attorney accused the state of withholding the brain illegally.
The state’s announcement came after the medical examiner ruled Hernandez’s death a suicide. Hernandez’s family wants the brain to be studied to see if he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
“The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner released Mr. Hernandez’s body on Wednesday, but withheld some tissue including his brain until the cause and manner of death was determined,” said District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. in a statement. “Now that the cause and manner of death have been determined, the brain will be released to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center as Mr. Hernandez’s family wishes.”
The announcement capped an afternoon in which defense attorney Jose Baez said he had no confidence in the medical examiner, and threatened legal action if the brain was not released.
“It is our position that they are holding Aaron Hernandez’s brain illegally,” Baez said. CTE is a condition, caused by repetitive brain trauma, that has affected some football players. Baez said he was not contending that Hernandez had the condition, but that the family wants to know whether he did.
Baez spoke near the state medical examiner’s office in Boston, where an autopsy was performed on the former New England Patriots tight end, a convicted murderer who was found hanging from a bedsheet in a prison cell on Wednesday.
“If we don’t get answers and answers quickly, we’re going straight to court,” said Baez. He said he would seek an emergency court hearing to secure the brain.
Baez, who has said he will conduct his own investigation into what happened, said he would not accept the conclusion that the death was a suicide until after a full inquiry.
“We’re investigating everything. We’re not rejecting anything. We’re keeping all of our options open, which is what everybody else should be doing,” he said.
Baez said he was also concerned about irregularities that emerged during the recent double-murder trial that ended with Hernandez’s acquittal.
“The culture of misconduct and the culture of negligence that goes on in this town is befuddling. It’s unbelievable that they would engage in this type of conduct, especially when everyone’s watching,” said Baez, who represented Hernandez in the trial.
Hernandez’s body was released to a Watertown funeral home, where it is being held until it is sent to another location, which has not been publicly disclosed by Hernandez’s relatives or legal team.
Hernandez marked his forehead with a reference to a biblical passage before apparently taking his own life in his cell at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley.
He was found hanging from a bedsheet by a corrections officer around 3:05 a.m. Wednesday. The 27-year-old Hernandez had been acquitted of two 2012 murders last week, but was still serving a life sentence for a third murder, in 2013.