By Scott Malone
BOSTON (Reuters) - A lawyer for former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez on Thursday accused the Massachusetts' medical examiner's office of reneging on a deal to turn over the athlete's brain to a Boston laboratory a day after he was found dead in his prison cell.
The 27-year-old former National Football League star hung himself early on Wednesday in the prison cell where he was serving a life sentence for the 2013 murder of an acquaintance, dying less than a week after he was cleared of a separate double-murder charge, according to state officials.
Attorney Jose Baez, who successfully defended Hernandez in his most recent trial, on Thursday said that the state's Chief Medical Examiner's Office had turned over Hernandez' remains to his family but retained his brain.
"The family should be able to have the dignity of a proper service in the proper possession of Aaron's remains," Baez told reporters after exiting the medical examiner's office.
Baez said the family wanted Hernandez's brain turned over to Boston University's CTE center, which studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a condition linked to the sort of repeated head hits common in football that can lead to aggression and dementia later in life.
When a Boston University representative arrived to pick up the brain for testing, they were denied possession, Baez said.
He said officials from the chief medical examiner's office told him they wanted to prepare the brain for study.
"This is not amateur hour," Baez told reporters. "I have serious questions as to their ability to conduct this study."
A Boston University spokeswoman declined comment. A spokesman for the chief medical examiner's office did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
Local media, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, reported on Thursday that Hernandez's body was found with a reference to a Bible verse written on his forehead, perhaps in blood.
Baez declined to comment on those reports saying, "I'm not going to address something so ridiculous as that."
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Andrew Hay)