In light of the recent developments involving NFL player and ex-New England Patriot, Aaron Hernandez, regarding his arrest for the murder of Odin Lloyd, many people have been left with a variety of questions as to ‘what is going to happen next’.
When you hear a charge like murder, you may be quick to only consider the criminal aspect of the judicial process involving both the victim and the alleged perpetrator; however, where there has been a criminal charge for murder, often times there will be a civil lawsuit filed for wrongful death as well. Knowing the distinction between the legal terms “murder” and “wrongful death” is the first part of having a true understanding of the difference. As we take a look at what each term means, and what case penalties can result in either a civil or criminal action, we will begin to see the significant purposes each serve in our legal system.
Murder charges and lawsuits are filed and brought before a criminal court as a violation of the law. There is a statute in place that will tell you exactly what elements of the crime must be proven by the state in order to convict an alleged murderer. The burden of proof that must demonstrated by the state for each element of the crime in order to convict the accused is ‘Beyond a Reasonable Doubt’. If the prosecution leaves any doubt as to any of the elements of the crime murder being established, then a jury cannot find a person guilty of that murder. If a person is found guilty of murder in a criminal case, the penalty will be restriction from freedom and possibly death depending on the jurisdiction.
Wrongful death lawsuits are civil actions which usually are brought forth by the estate or relatives of a deceased victim. When a claim is filed, in order for a plaintiff to be successful, they must demonstrate to the court that the defendant was responsible for the deceased’s death through a careless, deliberate, or negligent act. Civil lawsuits carry a different burden of proof than criminal cases. In a civil suit, proof by 51% or more is considered acceptable. So as long as a jury believes more-likely than not that a defendant is responsible for the victims death, they can award monetary damages to the person bringing the suit.
Being that the Hernandez case is still an ongoing investigation into the actual crime itself, there is not much that can be definitively said as to what will transpire in the upcoming months. What can be said is that given the financial situation of high profile athletes like Aaron Hernandez, it is highly likely that at some point, Odin Lloyd’s family may bring a civil lawsuit against Hernandez’s estate. The landmark case that best illustrated this possibility is the OJ Simpson case.
OJ Simpson was initially charged with the first degree murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. Eventually, and after a high-profile trial, OJ was found not guilty by a jury. The criminal case and murder charges were not something that was filed by the family of either victim, but was done so by the state of California. What ultimately transpired from the culmination of the “not guilty” verdict was a civil lawsuit for wrongful death filed by the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson. OJ was found liable for battery against Nicole Brown Simpson and the wrongful death and battery of Ron Goldman in the civil suit. OJ Simpson was ordered to pay $33,500,000 in damages to both families.
While the present case involving Aaron Hernandez continues to progress, we will all see, in similar high-profile stature similar to the OJ case, how this will all unfold. If Aaron Hernandez is found guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd, then it can be said that receiving an award for wrongful death in a civil lawsuit would be all but guaranteed for Odin’s family, given the significant difference in the two cases’ burdens of proof. More information will be disclosed as the next few weeks approach, but we must always keep in mind no matter what we hear or see in the news is that Aaron Hernandez will be tried for this crime, and as of now, he is guilty of nothing. It is our legal system that will help to determine the fate of Aaron Hernandez.
The wrongful death of a loved one takes an overwhelming emotional and financial toll on the entire family. Wrongful death damages typically include compensation for medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and the personal adjustments to the loss of life. If you or a loved one has lost a family member to a murder or any other unnatural death, contact the Ft. Lauderdale offices of Madalon Law for answers on how you can be justly compensated for your horrible loss.