Aaron Hernandez was found guilty of first-degree murder in 2015. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo/USA TODAY Sports)
Aaron Hernandez’s lawyers are thinking about using a pot defense, saying their client’s habit of smoking marijuana may have turned him into a murderous monster. That’s insane.
According to the Boston Herald’s Bob McGovern, Hernandez’s attorneys have included two unknown marijuana experts in a list of potential witnesses for his upcoming double-murder trial. They could discuss the nature of marijuana use in the NFL and the psychological impact the drug has on its users.
“At that point, if you are using this tactic, you are probably trying to get it down to second-degree murder or manslaughter,” criminal defense attorney Phil Tracy told the Herald. “You would try to say that repeated and prolonged use of marijuana had an effect on his brain so he couldn’t form clear intent to commit first-degree murder.”
Hernandez’s marijuana use was a central theme during his first murder trial two years ago, in which he was convicted for slaying semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd in June 2013. His attorneys argued Hernandez couldn’t have killed Lloyd, because the two were smoking buddies.
But this time around, they may argue years of excessive marijuana use diminished Hernandez’s mental capacity. The former Patriots tight end is accused of killing Daniel Jorge Correia de Abreu, 29, and Safiro Furtado, 28 in a drive-by shooting on a South End street in July 2012. The two victims reportedly encountered Hernandez at a club in the theatre district the night they were killed.
There’s little evidence that suggests smoking or ingesting marijuana can have a damaging long-term neurological impact. A 2003 study from the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society shows chronic marijuana users don’t experience a significant reduction in their cognitive abilities, except perhaps in their ability to remember. A 2014 study says marijuana can even be used to treat some forms of mental illness, such as PTSD and depression.
While alcohol makes its users more aggressive and violent, weed has the opposite effect. Last year, researchers in the Netherlands examined a group of 20 heavy drinkers and 21 habitual marijuana smokers, monitoring them while they got drunk or high. Through a series of tests, they found the drinkers got more aggressive as their blood alcohol content rose, whereas the smokers got less aggressive when they became impaired. Those findings coincide with a 2014 study that says couples that smoke marijuana are less likely to engage in domestic violence.
It’s possible that drug use may have ravaged Hernandez’s mind at the time of the double-murder. In a 2013 feature story, the Rolling Stone reported Hernandez was a PCP addict, with one friend saying he was “out of his mind.” During the Lloyd murder trial, Hernandez’s lawyers called a professor from Tufts University School of Medicine to testify about how PCP can cause people to become violent. Hernandez’s cousin said the tight end’s two co-defendents in that case, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, were smoking PCP the weekend Lloyd was killed.
It seems as if drug abuse played a role in Hernandez’s downfall. But placing the blame on marijuana is disingenuous and insulting.