Thursday, April 16, 2015

Things fame can't do

He'll be processed in a correctional facility less than four miles from Gillette Stadium, and here's your recommended daily requirement of irony for April 16, 2015. Once, worlds and eons and numerous bad acts ago, Aaron Hernandez caught touchdown passes from Tom Brady in the Razor, his ears ringing with cheers. Now the cheers are long gone, and the only sounds in his ears are  the soft click of handcuffs and the metal clang of iron bars.

A Massachusetts jury made sure of that yesterday, finding Hernandez guilty of first-degree murder in the brutal slaying of Odin Lloyd in the summer of 2013. The verdict carries an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.

All those cheers and touchdowns and bright moments with the best organization in football were of no value to him, when it got down to cases. Aaron Hernandez' fame bought him no special accommodation, no consideration beyond that accorded any accused felon. He's a bad man and he got treated like one.

The jury wanted make sure everyone knew that.

 "The fact that he was a professional athlete meant nothing in the end," its official statement read.  "He is a citizen who was held accountable by the jury for his depraved conduct."

This is exactly as it should be, of course, but it says something about the way we regard the famous that the jury felt compelled to spell it out. Fame works two ways, when it intersects with notoriety. Either it earns the famous a benefit of the doubt not accorded the faceless, or it earns them harsher scrutiny by a legal system trying to remove any appearance of favoritism.

 Both happened in the O.J. trial, when L.A. police essentially framed a guilty man. But it's a credit to our legal system -- justifiably maligned for its often unequal treatment of suspects based on race -- that the famous far more often get no special breaks.

To be sure, star-struck juries exist and occasionally allow the famous to skate. But the Blob suspects that happens far less than most people think. Perception rarely squares with reality in anything these days, because everyone has an agenda and the means to publicly advance it. That would seem to be especially true here.

A tip of the cap to the Hernandez jury for allowing reality, for once, to win the day.

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