Netflix's Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

You may or may not know who Aaron Hernandez was. He was a great football player who signed with the New England Patriots as a tight end in 2010. Not long after playing in a Super Bowl with the team, Hernandez was arrested for the murder of a man named Odin Lloyd. He was later convicted of murder in the first degree following his trial and tried for two more murders. During his appeal, Aaron Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell, shocking everyone who had heard his story. 

Despite the public nature of his life, there is a lot about Aaron that had remained a mystery at the conclusion of his life, until now. Netflix recently released a three-episode documentary examining the life, career, and trial of Hernandez’s life. If you’re someone who enjoys crime documentaries, was a fan of Aaron Hernandez, or even just have an interest in watching something that’s a little dark, you should definitely watch Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez before it is removed from Netflix. 

The documentary goes into explicit detail about Aaron’s life, starting with his very early childhood. He lived in Bristol, Connecticut, attending Bristol Central High School. Football was a part of his life very early on. He attended football camp at the University of Connecticut, the same school his father had attended and played for in his college years. At fourteen years old, Aaron accepted a scholarship from UConn to play football. He went on to have a successful high school career but ended up backing out of the scholarship from UConn and attending the University of Florida, continuing to play football for their team. Around this time, Aaron started getting into trouble. He was involved in altercations, one occurring at a bar, but luckily for him was not charged. 

We are also given a closer look into the details of the trial and Aaron’s time behind bars. At first, it seemed that he could have been innocent, but the more they looked, the stronger the case against him became. The crime was very sloppy, making it easy for the court to gather evidence. What is really fascinating is that despite the fact that his life had taken a major turn for the worse, Aaron Hernandez seemed to remain completely unphased. But the documentary doesn’t stop there. It also goes into detail about what led up to the crimes he committed and the factors that were believed to have contributed to his actions.

When discussing the details of Aaron’s life, the documentary focused heavily on his sexuality. Aaron Hernandez may or may not have been involved in relationships with men, but that does not mean that it is okay to out him and make these assumptions. Personally, this part of the documentary angered me. These are details that cannot be proven to be true at this point, including an alleged prison affair. Using the rumors of his anger at hiding his sexuality to explain his erratic behavior just doesn’t seem right. Yes, they had an old friend of his come and talk about how they had a relationship, and I am not trying to discredit this, but people can make up stories. I think it is important that we steer away from blaming his bad decisions on this aspect of his life. It is possible that this was a factor that contributed to his quick anger, but I definitely don’t believe it was a major reason for the murders he committed. 

One thing the documentary did that I appreciated was that it gave a face to Hernandez’s victims. In a case involving such a famous, highly adored individual, the identities and lives of those affected tend to get overshadowed. In fact, I didn’t even know the names of these victims until watching the documentary. Odin Lloyd, the man who Aaron murdered just a few miles from his own, was his sister-in-law’s fiancé. They were friends. Lloyd’s family was a significant part of the documentary, telling his story and detailing their experiences during the trial. We also get a glimpse into the lives of the other two men killed by Hernandez. 

Towards the conclusion of the series, we get some interesting information. Throughout his life, Aaron Hernandez had taken many hits to the head, resulting in numerous concussions and even permanent damage to his brain. After his death, his brain was sent to be examined. The results of the scan came as a complete shock, even to “researchers who for years have been studying the relationship between brain disease and deaths of professional football players.” (Ken Belson, New York Times). However, what was found explains a lot about Aaron’s life, especially the events leading up to his arrest. Hernandez was found to have a SEVERE case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease of the brain that causes the brain to atrophy at a rapid pace. The details are difficult to understand unless you are super into medicine or neuroscience, but basically, the cells in the brain begin to break down and harden, creating perforations or cavities in certain areas. Hernandez had a lot of damage to his frontal lobe, which controls things like judgment, emotional expression, and memory. This explains his impulse control issues, erratic behavior, and lapses in judgment that got him into trouble later in his life. 

Aaron’s case of CTE could have started developing very early in his career. Throughout his time playing football, he was hit in the head more times than can be counted, causing many concussions, some possibly undiagnosed. To make things worse, during his high school football season, Hernandez was hit extremely hard in the head, knocking him out cold. When he got to the professional league, Hernandez was a valuable asset to the New England Patriots. His presence on the field was more important to the team than his health. The documentary mentions how he was given medication prior to almost every game in order to help him play through his injuries. This issue seems to have repeated itself with many other NFL players like Junior Seau, Ken Stabler, and Mike Webster. The problem has been kept under wraps by the NFL to save face, but it is becoming a growing, unavoidable problem plaguing the lives of more and more professional football players.

There are so many crazy details that are brought to light in this documentary. Way too many for me to write about. But I’m sure you don’t want to sit here and read my interpretation and explanation of it anyways. I would definitely recommend taking the time to view this series. It is broken up into three different episodes, all approximately an hour-long, making it easy to watch in pieces. However, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get so hooked after the first ten minutes of the first episode that you’ll watch the entire thing in one sitting. (Totally worth it)