New Aaron Hernandez Documentary Brings Back the Disturbing Drama

The name Aaron Hernandez is relevant once again after a 3-part docuseries on the story of his murder convictions and trials was released on Netflix on January 15th. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez includes courtroom footage, phone calls, and various clips of Hernandez’s career highlights, all coming together to reveal the disturbing reality of the star football player’s double life.

Aaron Hernandez was a professional football player on the New England Patriots about to enter his fourth season with a contract of $40 million when allegations of him murdering 27-year-old Odin Lloyd were revealed. He was arrested in June 2013 for the first-degree murder of Lloyd. In 2015, Hernandez was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Two years later, he was on trial for the double homicide of Safiro Furtado and Daniel de Abreu outside of a Boston nightclub in July 2012. Ultimately, he was found not guilty. In 2017, Hernandez took his own life at 27 years-old at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Massachusetts.

Although it seems like a long time since the Hernandez drama, this docuseries directed by Geno McDermott has a way of unraveling the events as if it is happening in front of our eyes all over again. The clips of Hernandez playing in NFL and collegiate games while getting cheered on by fans who proudly wear his jersey is quickly contrasted with clips of him handcuffed in a courtroom. These clips create an unsettling yet intriguing story, making you wonder how a man can murder someone and continue to play an entire season of football afterwards.

One of the significant aspects that contributes to the success of the delivery of the film is the inclusion of phone calls between Hernandez and his wife, family members, and lawyer while he was in jail. Something about hearing the raw conversation where he sounds surprisingly unworried sends chills throughout the body. For someone under such serious accusations, he seems somewhat sarcastic when speaking to his wife. He makes jokes about his room in prison and the fights he gets in over football games with other inmates.

Hearing him speak to his daughter, however, can make anyone wonder how a man is capable of such cruel actions yet can be so loving to his child. The film uses multiple techniques by including different points of view on the case and Hernandez as a person. When Odin Lloyd’s former teammate speaks, you develop a hatred for Hernandez, but when you hear his daughter laugh over the phone and the story of his childhood, you can’t help but feel a sense of sympathy.

Perhaps one of the more controversial topics brought up is that of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in football players. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma, such as football players.

When the MRI of Hernandez’s brain was shown compared to a healthy mind of a male his age, it was clear that CTE had taken a toll on him. CTE was prominently present in his prefrontal cortex – which is responsible for decision making. While some of the interviewees in the series consider CTE a possible mental cause for his cruel actions, others cringe at the fact that you could even think of using CTE, a disease that has affected many athletes, as an excuse for his horrific choices.

From a sports perspective, however, it’s interesting to see how much of Hernandez’s drama was covered up throughout his life. While playing at the University of Florida, Hernandez got into more than a couple of bar fights, but it wasn’t revealed until years later. The Patriots were also somewhat aware of his violence, which is possibly why Hernandez ended up being the 113th pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft considering his immense talent.

The association between Hernandez and the Patriots organization is another peculiar concern, and not much clarity is known as to the full extent that Patriots owner Robert Kraft knew about Hernandez’s crimes. When asked to speak on the situation when it was happening, Patriots players and coaches chose not to comment to the media about it. As an audience, we start to question the reliability of professional sports associations and how many other secrets they have kept for players.

Although most details about the cases mentioned in the film are already known, the biggest shock was the struggle Hernandez faced about his sexuality. With the tackling and physicality of football, it is known to be a masculine sport. Football is typically associated with men, and with these men, we picture masculinity, making it extremely difficult for a player to come out.

Hernandez’s high school teammate shared that they had a relationship, which came as a surprise to many. This is where another interesting question is raised – Did Hernandez feel ashamed of who he was and did the stress of hiding it become too much? After his suicide, it was released that he had relations with another inmate.

When Hernandez was alive, however, he showed a bit of homophobia. Interviewees think it was a part of a cover up, but his former fiancée, Shayanna Jenkins, is confident that their relationship was genuine.

Many possibilities of why Hernandez chose the path he did are raised in this series, which is what makes it most intriguing. Did Odin Lloyd figure out Hernandez’s sexuality? Was Hernandez afraid he would be exposed? Was it the harsh childhood and his father’s death that made him take the wrong paths? Did CTE play a role in his decision making? Or was it the idea that since he was famous, he thought he could get away with anything?

These questions are never answered and most likely never will be. While the film leaves you with a bit of uncertainty, that is where the strength lies. We never know the full truth about cases like these, especially in the world of professional sports, where people will go to inhumane extents to protect their legacy and career. Overall the documentary does a strong job in explaining the courses of events that took place and finally adding a little bit of closure to what seems like a case with a lot of question marks, allowing the world to put Hernandez and his drama to rest.