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Abatement ab initio (latin for "from the beginning") is a common law legal doctrine that states that the death of a defendant who is appealing a criminal conviction vacates the conviction. Abatement ab initio was the subject of two United States Supreme Court decisions, Durham v. United States (1971) and Dove v. United States (1976). The former extended the doctrine to cases where certiorari was pending and not yet granted, and the latter excluded discretionary appeals.[1]

Abatement ab initio was used in federal court to overturn the conviction of Enron CEO Kenneth Lay. In the state of Massachusetts, it was used to overturn the convictions of John Salvi, and Aaron Hernandez, both convicted of murder. In the latter case, however, the state appealed the decision; in March 2019 the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reinstated Hernandez's conviction, and ended the use of the doctrine in Massachusetts.[2] The ruling held that the defendant's death rendered the appeal moot; it also held that trial records should indicate that such convictions were "neither affirmed nor reversed".[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Abatement AB Initio and a Crime Victim’s Right to Restitution
  2. ^ Gaffin, Adam (March 13, 2019). "Aaron Hernandez will officially and forever be ruled a murderer, court decides". Universal Hub.
  3. ^ "Aaron Hernandez's Murder Conviction Reinstated By Mass. High Court". Retrieved 2019-03-13.