Aaron Hernandez documentary meanders through vague efforts to excuse his murders

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An archaic quirk of Massachusetts law nearly absolved Aaron Hernandez of murder because he died while the case was pending on appeal. The new Netflix documentary regarding Hernandez tries, in roundabout fashion, to do what Massachusetts ultimately didn’t.

That’s my takeaway from the meandering, three-part look at the life, the lives taken, and the death of Hernandez. While the effort to excuse his murder of Odin Lloyd and the accused drive-by shooting deaths of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu isn’t overt, the documentary sprinkles various alternative explanations and excuses for what could be the simple fact that Hernandez was an evil, entitled, and deranged sociopath who believed he could kill without consequence.

Whether it’s the unexpected death of his father (i.e., if his father had lived Hernandez’s life wouldn’t have taken a dark turn), his mother taking up with the spouse of his beloved cousin (i.e., the blatant example of betrayal screwed Hernandez up even further), his homosexuality (i.e., he was angry all the time because he wanted to hide and repress it), his drug use (i.e., the habit put him in the company of criminals), his return to the New England area for the launch of his pro career (i.e., he was too close to the people who led him down the wrong path), his lawyers’ flawed tactics in the Lloyd case (i.e., if Hernandez had Jose Baez defending him in both cases, Hernandez may have been exonerated), and/or football (i.e., CTE contributed to his murderous rages), the documentary attempts to make the viewer think that Hernandez was just one or two twists of fate from never having killed Odin Lloyd, never having gone to prison, never having taken his own life there.

The deeper unspoken message is that a similar chain of events could otherwise derail the life of any normal, All-American kid.

It’s a tough sell. But the documentary definitely tries to do it, from wedging into the narrative former NFL player Ryan O’Callaghan (who comments on the stress of concealing homosexuality) and former NFL player Chris Borland (who famously retired after only one year due to concerns over concussions). Neither had any connection whatsoever to Hernandez. O’Callaghan played for the Patriots, but he was gone from the NFL before Hernandez was even drafted. Ditto for Borland, whose one-year career happened in 2014, while Hernandez was awaiting trial for the Lloyd murder. But their stories help give credence to the vague notion that homosexuality and/or head injuries helped turn a regular guy into a murderer.

For those who knew little or nothing about the Hernandez case, the documentary easily could create confusion regarding how the story unfolded and, as to some of the material included in the series, the point of it. For those who knew the situation well, there wasn’t much that was new, other than Hernandez’s love of Harry Potter books and the aborted efforts by prosecutors in the Furtado/de Abreu case to bolster a flimsy motive by arguing that Hernandez’s short fuse came from his repressed homosexuality.

Perhaps the most compelling moment comes when the prosecution in the Lloyd case calls Patriots owner Robert Kraft to testify, and Hernandez immediately adopts the anxious demeanor of a child who got in trouble at school and was told by his mother, “Wait ’til your father gets home.” Maybe in those chillingly sad images of Hernandez repeatedly looking back to the doors to the courtroom, waiting for Kraft to enter, some of the threads of quasi-justification gain some credence. Even though Hernandez killed Lloyd, probably killed Furtado and de Abreu (the acquittal came days before Hernandez’s suicide), and shot Alexander Bradley in the face and left him to die, maybe with the right guidance and discipline Hernandez wouldn’t have embarked on a path that ended four lives, and that irreparably harmed many others.

Again, it’s a tough sell. Hernandez, by all appearances and indications, was a bad guy who knew how to flip the switch back and forth when it suited his interests to do so. While it’s impossible to find a smoking gun that would absolve him from using the literally smoking gun, the ensuing collection of speculative theories aimed at excusing his behavior is far more frustrating than informative.

31 responses to “Aaron Hernandez documentary meanders through vague efforts to excuse his murders

  1. yup…..definite attempts to show him as a victim. tom tells tebow in a post gm handshake that hes trying to keep an eye on aaron. that tells u everything. it also shows that tebow went to a bar in gainesville! oh my

  2. As a football fan, there was really nothing new here, but I did think that the documentary was confusing. There was talk about whether or not he killed himself for money to go to his family, and how the Patriots would spend more in fees fighting not to pay him than they would if they just gave him the money, and it went nowhere. I know that the law was changed at the end to ensure he was still guilty, but I would have liked a statement about the status of the finances.

  3. I watched it. Sociopath.

    That said, this guy had enablers all around him, from his family (candidate for worst mother) to his college coaches (Urban actually said he failed a drug test “once” – liar liar pants on fire!).

    I can’t really blame the Pats for drafting him in the 4th, though clearly they didn’t do their “full due diligence” as they implied after the fact.

    Next time, let’s do a video about the victims, since they matter far more.

    Overall, I feel sorry for all his victims.

  4. I don’t think it was making excuses for his actions, just questioning what would cause someone with what seems like everything to do what he did. You wrote “the simple fact that Hernandez was an evil, entitled, and deranged sociopath who believed he could kill without consequence” simply calling him these things doesn’t examine how he became a sociopath. No one has ever excused serial killer’s murders because their upbringing was so horrible that they were breed to kill. No one is excusing Hernandez for his violent acts either. This is an examination of one person’s life, the events in it and how that could try to explain what went wrong.

  5. The documentary was really good. Before this came out, I thought he was just another gang banger, bad guy. Watching the documentary actually shed some light on who he was. He wasn’t raised in the streets. Seems like he had trouble with his sexuality than more was lead to believe. That fact he has cte at only 27 and had it worse than most 27 year olds is pretty crazy. Still though, he is a murderer. He knew what he was doing. It doesn’t excuse anything. I feel bad for Odin Lloyd’s family, his family, and especially his daughter. But nonetheless, it was a good documentary.

  6. You are a product of your environment. All those life events probably did lead up to the person he was. Doesn’t excuse the murders but this is true with almost every criminal.

  7. The only thing I wonder about is the CTE. No doubt he was a bad guy, but would he have been capable of multiple murders if his brain had been functioning properly? I guess we’ll never know.

  8. I’m pretty much over CTE being used as a catch-all excuse or reason that some of these guys are doing what they are doing. I would say that 99% of the time it’s just who the person is, and money and fame go to their head and they believe they are bigger than life. The rules no longer apply to them. I’m not saying CTE isn’t an issue, but we shouldn’t assume that every Hernandez or Brown is some way affected by it.

  9. This can be the problem with documentaries. In order to gain access to family members and other people close to the subject, often times a certain narrative is promised in exchanged for interviews. Hate that.

  10. When are we going to start taking brain slices from “non-athletes” and “serial killers”? How can this MD continue to pick and choose the people and population and theorize against natural CTE in aging people, before we start excusing murder for CTE we better improve our studies and “media” portrayal.

  11. Oh Please! This guy was in big trouble before he even played football in college. His parents were in trouble with the law and that’s how he was brought up. The guys is a killer because he was a bad guy, a bad seed and he had no conscience. This documentary is a complete reach and attempt to blame anybody but Hernandez.

  12. It did not make him to be a victim. It simply gives you background on what lead up to his horrible decisions. I personally think he was smoking PCP still too. Documentary said he was smoking joints with PCP in them. What makes anyone think he ever stopped?

  13. Hmm, I didn’t take that away from it at all. As iany good documentary will do, they have to look into any and all aspects of the guys background and motivations to get the full picture. Just coming out and saying “he was a bad dude and psychopath, thats why he did it” would be pretty short sighted and incomplete. I appreciated the looks into his background and possible motivations. Some of what you call efforts to exonerate him actually explain why he may well have (provably did) kill 2 guys for no other reason than they spilled a drink on him. He got away with that one,in part, because the defense made every effort to show that there was no way he would kill people because of that. This documentary actually show that yes, he would shoot two people for no better reason. Without that background info, we may well have came to the same conclusion as that jury.

  14. “his return to the New England area for the launch of his pro career (i.e., he was too close to the people who led him down the wrong path)”

    He was a psychopath but I’ve always wondered if he had been drafted by a west coast team and not 2 1/2 hours up the road from all the trouble he grew up with if he might have turned his life around. Instead that trouble has easy access to him and he sank further into lunacy.

    Even so, simply being removed from those people probably wouldn’t have been enough. He was too far out there and seems likely he would have found similar problems wherever he went if it had been a different team

  15. And those who hazed him during his rookie NFL season are still breathing (hyperventilating) a sigh of relief.

  16. I watched all three episodes and walked away with similar feelings. Attempted to painted him in a positive light. Regarding the CTE excuse, I don’t think anyone knows for certain if it played a factor or not. CTE has definitely had an impact on former players’ behavior and decision making. In Aaron’s case, one might conclude that it did play a factor. After all, he was diagnosed with having the worst case of CTE ever seen for a person of his age. Wiggy’s comments at the end of the last episode seemed like comments from 10 years ago. The exam of Aaron’s brain was performed by the foremost expert in the field and she has examined thousands of brains. We are at the infancy of learning about CTE.

  17. “his return to the New England area for the launch of his pro career (i.e., he was too close to the people who led him down the wrong path)”

    He shot some dude and left him to die while playing in Florida. This argument hold no weight at all. Not to mention everything else he did while in college.

  18. That’s the 21st century mindset. No one is responsible for their actions. It is always some exterior circumstance and the individual had no control of their actions.

  19. ” … his lawyers’ flawed tactics in the Lloyd case (i.e., if Hernandez had Jose Baez defending him in both cases, Hernandez may have been exonerated).”

    Thank goodness for everyone that crossed his path that he was locked up for the murderer he was. If “tactics” can get a sociopath exonerated then the system and those tactics needs to be reevaluated.

  20. We’re at an interesting place in history in terms of personal responsibility. Even before we explore the impact of nurture context (such as socio-economic factors), our understanding of what makes people tick and how much they are personally responsible for their actions is evolving. Sometimes, it’s downright scary – for example, a fluke tumor that develops in the right place in your brain can sudden give you a violent temper, when you were a “good” person beforehand. Is that a person’s fault, that his or her brain is quite literally malfunctioning? What about brain chemistry? Is it a personal’s fault to be born with a chemistry that makes it incredibly difficult to fight urges that society agrees are unacceptable?

    For most of human history, it was believed that every person’s personality and morals were under that person’s control, and thus immoral actions were a choice made by a person falling short of the moral behaviors of others. But what if the playing field is not level? Surely some degree of personal responsibility exists, but if we can tie motivations and/or behaviors to actual chemical or physical mechanisms that vary widely among people and have nothing to do with the choices said person has made in life, how much can we blame the person? If we reach the point that we can detect brain chemistry that could lead to theft or rape or murder and even change that chemistry, how do we look at it then?

    I don’t ask these questions to imply that people are not responsible…or that they are. No presumption here. The fascinating thing about ethical dilemmas is that they lack crystal clear “right” answers, and to me this is one of those. I have empathy that behaviors might be more out of control for many people than we have ever suspected, but at the same time I very much believe that a line must be drawn.

  21. This is such a tragic story, lives were taken and families destroyed for what seemed like no reason whatsoever. Aaron’s life appeared to have taken a real turn for the worse once his dad passed away. Makes you wonder if there had been someone close by to keep him in check, help him deal with his aggression and make sure he got the medical attention he needed things may have ended differently.

  22. No one dare have a film of the victims. NFL is always trying to make their bums out as the poor old me sad story of why they are such bad characters

  23. No sympathy for Hernandez whatsoever, I realize the attempt to shed light on the reasons for his actions, but his choices were those of a drugged out self entitled athlete who made one poor choice after another, life happens for everyone and people still have to face reality.
    I feel great sympathy for all those tragically affected by his carelessness and disregard for human life.

  24. My son watched it and gave it the same type of review that Florio did. Somehow, that didn’t surprise me. The Netflix thing, “The Making of a Murderer” did the same thing for their “subject”… and that piece was a fully planned and executed hack job for those people who WANT to believe that those “poor boys” were set up … again, blame society for bad life choices, without acknowledging the murderers’ upbringing.

  25. Just watched it and agree with Florio’s take. Will add that the documentary mentions excessive marijuana use and also mentions the he was extremely paranoid, but chooses not to connect those dots. Umm, maybe he was super paranoid because he was taking a drug which has a major side effect of paranoia.

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