Friday, April 25, 2014

When a tattoo might mean trouble.

The poet Alan Ginsberg used the motto "first thought best thought" as his guiding principal on how to be a fearless writer. Should that motto apply when the writing in question is a tattoo?

Susan Thacker of the Great Bend Tribune in Great Bend, Kansas has been reporting on the story of Jeffrey Wade Chapman.  Mr. Chapman is accused of premeditated murder. As Ms. Thacker reports, prosecutors and Mr. Chapman's defense attorney have reached an agreement that Mr. Chapman will be allowed to cover one of his tattoos with clothing during the trial. As the tattoo is printed on almost all of Mr. Chapman's neck, he will presumably be wearing turtlenecks or ascot ties if he wants to resemble Thurston Howell, III.

Why is this agreement about Mr. Chapman's tattoo news? Because, as Ms. Thacker points out, Mr. Chapman has the word "MURDER" written across his neck. Or maybe it says "REDRUM." I guess it depends whether you are viewing Mr. Chapman directly or with a mirror. In either event you can see a picture of the tattoo here.

Mr. Chapman's attorney, Kurtis P. Kerns, was concerned, understandably, that jurors might be swayed by seeing the word murder permanently written on his client's skin at a murder trial. Initially, Mr. Kerns requested that a tattoo artist be allowed to either remove or cover the tattoo.  The Benton County Sheriff opposed that request because Kansas law prohibits tattoo artists from plying their trade anywhere but at a licensed facility. Hence the compromise that clothes will cover the tattoo. I guess if Mr. Chapman is convicted the tattoo will come in handy as when people ask what he is in prison for, Mr. Chapman can just point to his neck. However, if you click on Mr. Kerns's link you will see that he "has yet to lose a murder trial." So maybe prison is not in Mr. Chapman's future.

What do you think Mr. Torvik? Would Mr. Chapman's tattoo give jurors pause in their deliberations? Is Mr. Chapman's case an exception that proves the utility of Mr. Ginsberg's rule? Should people just stick to tattooing felonies to parts of their bodies that are not normally visible?

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure we've all been tempted to get a neck today along these lines. I like to think my ability to resist these kinds of impulses is why I've made such a name for myself in this crazy little thing called life.

    *That last paragraph was me following Ginsburg's mandate. And this is why there are editors.

    As for Mr. Chapman, guys like him are what we've got so many prisons. What a moron.


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