Lawyer wants state to release Aaron Hernandez's brain for CTE testing
The degenerative brain condition linked to depression and violent outbursts affects as many as 90 percent of NFL players.
Aaron Hernandez’s attorney is demanding the state medical examiner release the ex-Patriots players’ brain for to see whether he suffered from a traumatic head injury that has been linked to violent outbursts and depression.
Hernandez, who was serving life in prison, was found hanging from a bedsheet in his cell early Wednesday morning, dead of an apparent suicide.
His brain was supposed to be sent to Boston University’s CTE Center on Thursday, at 10 a.m. That has not happened, and in an afternoon news conference, attorney Jose Baez said the medical examiner did a “complete 180” by refusing to release Hernandez’s brain.
Boston’s CTE Center studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease found in athletes with a history of repeated head injury. The center is widely considered the best CTE research facility in the world.
Boston University spokeswoman Maria Ober told Metro on Wednesday that the CTE Center could not comment on ongoing cases.
Baez, however, called the medical examiner's decision to hold the brain “destruction of evidence.”
“We know Boston University is the best place to do this — this is not amateur hour,” Baez said.
Speculation as to whether Hernandez suffered from CTE has been ongoing. The 27-year-old convicted murderer was known for violent outbursts and the disease has been linked to an increasing number of former NFL players who have committed suicide. Of the 94 brains from former NFL players that the CTE Center has so far examined, 90 have tested positive for the disease, according to a November report.
Bennet Omalu, the Nigeria-born neuropathologist who first discovered the condition has said he believes more than 90 percent of NFL players suffer from CTE. At least four other ex-NFL players who killed themselves were found to have CTE.
Baez said the state medical examiner's office was preparing to conduct the fixing process that will allow Hernandez’s brain to be tested, noting he has serious questions over the ability of state doctors to properly perform a CTE test. The condition can only be confirmed through a brain autopsy.
Baez said he is prepared to go to court and file protective order over Hernandez’s brain to prevent state interference.
“If the brain is not preserved properly, they wont be able to take proper specimens and we won’t be able get info that we want,” Baez continued.
The state medical examiner’s office did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday.
Baez said Hernandez's brain could hold the keys to why he committed suicide and provide valuable information about a damaging condition.
“We are here today to prevent something tragic from happening to his remains,” Baez said. “It’s something that could prevent us all from having truthful answers of what happened here and for the future of boys and girls who decide to play football that could possibly help them in the future,” he said.