The Right View: Hernandez trial holds a mirror to society

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I had never watched families deliver impact statements during the sentencing portion of a trial before. I did at the conclusion of the Aaron Hernandez trial, and many of our society’s ills came into focus.

There was no question after listening to the family of Odin Lloyd that they had the heart of their family ripped away from them. When his mother spoke, I thought, if anyone can listen to this without crying, they have no soul. When she said she forgave her son’s killer, my jaw dropped open in awe.

Each person who spoke of Lloyd talked of his support and love for his family, and his sense of self-reliance, to the point of biking 10 miles to work on his own. He wouldn’t take anything from anyone, including apparently, rides, and only wanted to give of himself, according to relative after relative. Lloyd’s nephew spoke of how rich Lloyd was – rich in love for family. He was his mother’s only son. It was obvious this man held a special, irreplaceable place in these people’s lives.

While not trying to make Lloyd out to be a saint (his involvement with Hernandez, and Hernandez’s life, is discussed extensively in an Aug. 28, 2013, article in Rolling Stone by Paul Solotaroff and Ron Borges of the Boston Herald), he was shot by Hernandez for defending him to some cousins Hernandez had decided he didn’t like at a nightclub one night. It was all utterly senseless.

Now Hernandez has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life imprisoned, without the possibility of parole. Under Massachusetts law, his murder conviction requires an automatic appeal.

According to The Washington Post, ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack said, “Hernandez’s defense team faces an uphill battle. There has to be some error made in the lower court that caused Aaron Hernandez not to receive a fair trial.” A  reversal, Cossack said, would be nearly an “impossibility.”

What a waste of human life.

First, Hernandez. Rather than being an NFL Super Bowl champion with his New England Patriot teammates, and materially rich with a $40 million contract under his belt, he’s a prisoner; of himself and now the state. A victim of his mother’s betrayals and involvement with a violent abuser, and his beloved father’s untimely death, of grief and rage and neighborhoods and incrimination in other shootings that he could never quite put behind him, and a long line of people covering for bad behavior. Or, a victim of his own poor choices in the life God gave him. Now Hernandez’s own daughter is also a victim, as her father will most likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

But more importantly, Odin Lloyd. By all accounts, the center and “backbone” of his family. No mother, no matter the circumstance, should ever have to bury her child. Lloyd’s mother, gracefully and somehow holding back most tears while she spoke, I think spoke for all mothers: “The day I had to bury my son, my heart stopped beating. I wanted to crawl in the hole with him.”

I can’t imagine it.

The waste of human life that we see on a daily basis I believe is proof that we have lost our way. Family life is no longer revered as it once was, we glorify violence, youth are lost to impoverished and crime-ridden cities in a perpetual cycle, we throw unborn babies away as medical waste to the tune of over 3,600 per day in the U.S., we’ve told fathers they don’t matter, that the state can raise their children instead, and yes, sometimes lives are snuffed out inexplicably by the very members of society who are charged with protecting them.

In the case of Aaron Hernandez, it’s clear that fathers do matter, as he appears to have turned to a life of gangs, violence and drugs to ease the pain of his father’s death and his mothers’ poor choices. Sons matter, too, evidenced by the grief on display by the Lloyd family. In fact, #AllLivesMatter. If we act that way, collectively as a nation, perhaps fewer mothers and family members would have to stand grief-stricken at trials, delivering impact statements.

• • •

After my last column was published, an online reader noted similarities between my work and a report published previously on another website.

My column included quotations from state DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew that were widely reported by Maine news outlets, but in the future, to avoid any confusion, I will attribute quotations to a single source. I also summarized information from easily available on-line state government, legislative, and Maine GOP websites and fact sheets. That probably accounts for any other similarities our astute readers may have noted.

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Julie McDonald-Smith lives in North Yarmouth. She is a registered nurse, former Capitol Hill staffer, and former chairwoman of the Cape Elizabeth Republican Committee. Her column appears every other week.