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Family, medical examiner's office fighting over Hernandez's brain

by: Kacie Yearout Updated:

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BOSTON - Update: The medical examiner's office said they will now be released to Boston University since the official cause of death has been determined.

There's a war going on between the Hernandez family and the Medical Examiner's office over the former football player's brain. 

"The culture of misconduct and the culture of negligence that goes on in this town," said defense attorney Jose Baez in a news conference Thursday.

Baez said the family decided to donate Aaron Hernandez's brain to the study of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which affects many football players. He said the family selected Boston University's CTE unit, one of the leading research facilities into CTE in the world.

Baez said they made arrangements for BU to pick up the brain at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but at the last minute, the medical examiner's office has decided it will keep it. It has returned the body to the family.

This is especially concerning, said Baez, because the brain must be treated very specifically in order to take samples for the study.

"It's extremely important these protocols are followed," said Baez.

Along with wanting to learn more about the 27-year-olds brain, Baez said they hope the samples can help future boys and girls who want to play football. 

Baez specifically named Dr. Henry Neils, the chief medical examiner, as the man who decided to keep Hernandez's brain.

"It is our position that they are holding Aaron Hernandez's brain illegally," said Baez.


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Baez cited the history of missing evidence and misconduct as reasons why they are worried; in addition, the office's reasons for keeping the brain do not make sense, said Baez.

"We do not have confidence in the medical examiner's office here, and there's no reason why they shouldn't have confidence in the world class CTE unit at Boston University," he said.

This fight, along with the loss of Hernandez, who committed suicide early Wednesday morning in prison, is weighing the family, said Baez.

"They are going through enough, and now we have to have a battle about one person's decision," he said.

Baez did not suggest CTE contributed to the suicide but is not the accepting suicide as the cause of death yet.

"We won't make that call until the investigation is complete," said Baez.

Late Thursday afternoon, a new release said the office withheld some of the brain tissue until the cause and manner of death were determined. The office said they will now be released to Boston University. 

Baez said he's prepared to take action in court if necessary and made a plea to journalists to demand answers from the medical examiner office. 

A source also told FOX25 that authorities found three letters in Hernandez's prison cell written to his family the day before he died.