Saturday, May 24, 2014

Tattoos part deux

Last month, I posted about a gentleman accused of murder in Kansas had to bring a motion asking the court to allow him to cover up a tattoo on his neck that spelled "MURDER" (or "REDRUM" depending on how you were looking at it). At the time, I thought it was sort of a unique motion. I was wrong. This month brings a similar motion in an Indiana murder trial.

The Louisville Courier-Journal has the story of William Clyde Gibson. Mr. Gibson is set to go on trial for the murder of Stephanie Kirk on June 16 in Floyd County, Indiana Superior Court. In April Mr. Gibson was convicted of the murder Christine Whitis and received the death penalty. Mr. Gibson was also sentenced to 65 years in prison for after he pleaded guilty to the murder of Karen Hodella.

Apparently, after receiving these sentences, Mr. Gibson decided to get a tattoo on his head. The tattoo reads "death row x3" in what the Courier-Journal described as "thick, dark ink." To prevent the jury from seeing this tattoo, the judge in the case ordered that Mr. Gibson grow his hair to cover it and that Mr. Gibson's hair be dyed a dark color to prevent the jury from noticing it. The judge specified that she was not concerned about head tattoos per se. Instead, she was concerned that Mr. Gibson's tattoo was a reference to the other murders.

It would seem that Mr. Gibson knew he was going to go on trial for the murder when he got the tattoo. I guess he was not thinking of the effect the tattoo might have on the jury. What do you think Mr. Torvik? Does the timing of his getting tattooed change the analysis of whether Mr. Gibson can complain that his tattoo might improperly prejudice the jury against him? Does the fact that Mr. Gibson's tattoo incorrectly identifies the number of death penalty sentences that Mr. Gibson actually received support an argument that the tattoo does not refer to the murders?

1 comment:

  1. Like all legal problems, I think this can be easily solved with a magical "limiting instruction." The judge can simply tell the jury, "You may have noticed that the defendant has a tattoo on his head that reads "MURDER x 3." Pay no attention to this, as it is not part of the evidence in this case."

    Problem solved.


Comments on posts older than 30 days are moderated because almost all of those comments are spam.