The shame of Aaron Hernandez

Story highlights

  • Roxanne Jones: Jury right to find Hernandez guilty, but the waste of life for player and his victim is tragic
  • She says NFL, Patriots knew his troubled past, but could not have predicted his actions, and both handled case well

Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer and as a reporter at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. She was named a 2010 Woman of the Year by Women in Sports and Events. Jones is a co-author of "Say It Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete" and CEO of the Push Marketing Group. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)We want our killers to be kind. To walk into court and show remorse, tell us that they are really nice people who only did it because they feared for their lives, or they were temporarily insane. Even though those things may not be true, too often they are accepted as legitimate excuses for murder.

Roxanne Jones
Well, Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end and now convicted murderer, made none of those excuses. He walked into court with an air of bravado, his head held high like the $40 million, NFL superstar he was just a couple of years ago. Several times he was even caught winking at his fiancee, Shayanna Jenkins, during the trial.
And we didn't like his swagger. Hernandez didn't offer a plausible alibi. He didn't look ashamed or remorseful. He never wept.
    His own attorney, James Sultan, admitted that Hernandez "witnessed" the killing of Odin Lloyd, "committed by somebody he knew," but said his client did not commit the crime. Even before the guilty verdict came down Wednesday, for many -- at least those covering the trial -- audacity seemed to be the defendant's biggest crime. "The Arrogance of Aaron Hernandez," a New Yorker headline accused.
    Aaron Hernandez faces more legal troubles
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      Aaron Hernandez faces more legal troubles


    Aaron Hernandez faces more legal troubles 02:29
    I don't get it. What does it matter that Hernandez was arrogant in court, or walked with too much swagger, or even smiled at his girl? Like it or not, that is who he is. The evidence is what matters. And for once, this time it appears the jury carefully considered the damning mountain of circumstantial evidence against this defendant and came to the right decision: guilty of first-degree murder in the 2013 slaying of Odin Lloyd. Hernandez, 25, was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. He was also found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.
    It was the right decision. Still, it's hard not to feel sadness over such a senseless waste of life for both Lloyd and now Hernandez, who were once friends.
    Football was the best thing Hernandez ever had, especially after he father died suddenly after a routine hernia surgery in 2006. Hernandez was 16. After that his life got complicated. At 17, Hernandez went off to the University of Florida and seemed headed for greatness. There he won the John Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end and led the team in receiving during its 2009 Bowl Championship Series win.
    But off the field, his life was to beginning to unravel. Trouble started: bar fights, reports of marijuana use and failed drug tests. He was even questioned in relation to a shooting after a fight at a Gainesville, Florida, nightclub. By the time he was drafted in 2010 by the New England Patriots, Hernandez had already been labeled a "troubled player."
    Aaron Hernandez goes to maximum security prison
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      Aaron Hernandez goes to maximum security prison


    Aaron Hernandez goes to maximum security prison 01:07
    But neither the Patriots nor the NFL has anything to be ashamed of in how they handled the Hernandez case. They did everything right this time. Hours after Hernandez was charged with murder, he was let go from the team. And his coaches didn't spend any time trying to convince the public that their star tight end was a decent, family-loving guy, as the league has done too many times in the past when its players got in trouble.
    This time justice worked. There's no reason to second-guess what went wrong, to ask "How could a star NFLer be a murderer?" The NFL for the most part does a great job vetting its players, and certainly Hernandez is an anomaly in the league, where despite the ugly headlines, the overwhelming majority of players are upstanding, law-abiding citizens.
    And Patriots bashers (me included) would be mistaken to try to find fault with the team for drafting Hernandez despite his troubled past. No one really knows what evil lurks in the hearts of others, even those closest to us. Not the mothers whose sons go off and commit schoolyard killing sprees, or wives whose husbands gun down innocent people, and certainly not employers who are mostly concerned about performance on the job.
    There was no way to predict Hernandez would end up a murderer. He was a guy who had all the talent and opportunity in the world, but he still went wrong. Hernandez himself may have explained it best as he was being taken out of the courtroom:
    According to a law enforcement source close to the case, Hernandez told officers escorting him, "'Hey man, I'm going to miss you guys. ... I don't need any luck any more.' He gave you the impression, 'It's kinda like no big deal. ... It is what it is.' "